A year and a half later, and I’m finally finished with Wuthering Heights.
It’s an old book, so you’ve probably already read it if you were going to, but if not, consider everything moving forward a spoiler zone.
So unlike most people, I didn’t read this book as a part of an literature class. I actually have read few classics because I managed to dodge classes that would have included them. And so it happens that most of the classics I have read were on my own.
Wuthering Heights came to my attention a couple of ways. One, it was in my closet growing up. My mom was an English teacher, so I had a bunch of books sitting in my closet. Every year or so, I would go through the books to see if there was something I wanted to read. This is actually how I found The Hobbit and A Tale of Two Cities, among other books. Two, I read Twilight, and when one book mentions another, you pay a little closer attention (or if you watch Gilmore Girls and want to try the Rory reading challenge). Three, a friend recommended it. Because that friend recommended To Kill a Mockingbird, I’ll forgive the recommendation of Wuthering Heights. And yes, I’m aware that I’m taking friend recommendations on classics. I don’t read classics very often (see above); I prefer the oddities of people like Douglas Adams, which is becoming classic, and Christopher Moore, which may never become classics but are fantastic reads nonetheless, and YA ’cause I’m an adult.
And on to the actual review of the book.
The characters in the book were all either bad people or incompetent people. The one exception might have been the father at the beginning.
Otherwise, you dealt with some pretty evil characters, petulant characters, and ineffectual characters. Anyone who was of the commone folk was generally useless to accomplish anything. The educated characters were petulant. Unless they were evil.
The great love story that’s told is more like a 19th century friendzone gone wrong. The guy doesn’t get what he wants and proceeds to deliberately make everyone’s lives hell and largely succeeds.
Somehow, there’s a sort-of happy ending. Unfortunately, I’m thinking of at least 7 premature deaths took to get there.
It’s weird to read a book where you dislike everyone. There’s no one that you’re really rooting for (or at least that I was rooting for). I realize that may be the appeal, much like people who like dark beers for the same reason that people who drinking Bud Light dislike dark beers. It just wasn’t a good match for me.
With older books, it’s always difficult to critique the writing. The language is different, and when you throw in dialects and a book written more than 150 years ago, you’re going to have issues gelling with the reader.
This isn’t the first time this issue has happened. When I read A Tale of Two Cities, I literally fell asleep reading it once. The first couple of chapters were like pulling fingernails, but then the tempo picked up (or I learned to adapt to the tempo), and I loved the book. Same with Mark Twain’s books. He writes the way his characters talk, and you have to find the rhythm to be able to read it.
The problem was I never found that tempo with Wuthering Heights. I could get into some good patterns of reading, but it always felt like a chore. I was 50 pages from finishing today, and decided to push through it, and that’s easily the most pages I’ve read in one day on the book. That’s laughable compared to pretty much any book I’ve ever finished.
And part of the tempo problem is that I stretched it out over such a long time. With A Tale of Two Cities, I wasn’t trying to read multiple books (or if I was, I came back to the book sooner than later; in the time since I’ve started Wuthering Heights, I’ve read easily 20 other books). Instead of trying to persevere, I was grabbing something else to read (and no matter what, the alternative was a lighter option, including The Two Towers, which reminds me, I need to get back to that one).
And you know what? Maybe the problem was that I just didn’t like the book. It happens. I like to think, but I don’t necessarily like to work when I’m reading, which is probably why I liked The Hobbit more than The Lord of the Rings. I can appreciate that The Lord of the Rings is the grander work, but if I just want to read, The Hobbit lets me disappear for about 300 pages without having to calculate distance traveled multiplied by the weight of the one ring to in the darkness bind them.
But I’m glad I read it. If nothing else, I can say I read it. I can also avoid naming any future sons Heathcliff, no matter how much I liked the cartoon cat growing up.