I’m sure you’ve heard of Wuthering Heights and I have a feeling that it may be on the list of books that you plan to read some day – as it had been on my very same list for some time! But once I heard that it was the favourite book of a good friend of mine, I decided to let it jump the queue, because obviously there was something special about it. I’ve read it now and while it didn’t become my number one favourite book, I can confirm that there is indeed something special about it.
The story covers two generations of people living in the titular Wuthering Heights and at Thrushcross Grange (another, nearby home.) That alone is fairly appealing to me, because I love stories which span across quite large periods of time, but at the centre of it all is the intriguing and enigmatic Heathcliff – a man brought into Wuthering Heights as a child, his past completely unknown. He develops quite an infatuation for Cathy, a girl he grows up with there. I wish I could say that they fall in love with each other and then go on to live happy and full lives, but that’s not quite how things turn out.
I don’t want to give anything away, because the shocking developments were so impactful precisely because of how unexpected they were, but if you think that that sounds like the setup for a generic and cliched love story, you’re completely wrong. This is a highly unconventional story and at its heart is a cast of very real people – even Heathcliff (who, I’ll be honest, is a bit of a scumbag sometimes) is somebody I had a great deal of sympathy for. Part of what makes it so moving is the fact that it highlights some genuine issues of the time, including gender inequality, limited understanding of mental health and limited access to healthcare in general.
In a way, it’s a horrible novel – because so many awful things happen to people who did not deserve to have such things happen. But by the end, things are wrapped up in a way that I found quite satisfying so while it may be a distressing and disturbing ride, it’s still well worth going on! And which might have a lesson for us all about the dangerous of obsession and over romanticising…