Masterpiece Monday: Wuthering Heights

Cover of "Wuthering Heights (Signet Class...

Cover of Wuthering Heights (Signet Classics)

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’m going to update the 30-day book challenge tomorrow, but today was supposed to be “Book that turned you on.” Bodice-ripping Harlequins don’t qualify as “masterpieces,” so I just decided to make this week’s meme about my favorite literary romance novel: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Emily Bronte came from a brilliant English family. She had five siblings: two sisters who died young of tuberculosis, her brother Patrick, and her equally famous sisters Charlotte (Jane Eyre) and Anne (Agnes Grey). All the Bronte children were artistic and excelled in writing and painting. The girls, however, went by pseudonyms for publication–Ellis, Currer, and Acton Bell–of which the initials matched their real names. Wuthering Heights is Emily’s only novel, which was published in 1847. She died from tuberculosis a year later at the age of 30. In fact, their father sadly outlived all his children.

The novel, narrated by Nelly, the housekeeper of Wuthering Heights, follows the tragic relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. It starts off when a new resident meets an older Heathcliff and his son, but Nelly takes the reader back 30 years prior, when Heathcliff (a homeless gypsy) is adopted by the Earnshaws.

Catherine soon grows close to Heathcliff, but her fixation on social status keeps them apart. The two must face the age-old decision between love and money, but if you know anything about Victorian literature, you probably already know what’s chosen.

Other than the difficulty in comprehending this convoluted family tree, full of multiple generations and repeating names, I have no complaints about Wuthering Heights. It’s the epitome of all star-crossed lover stories, surpassing even Romeo and Juliet, in my opinion.

The romance is heart-wrenching, dramatized but not glorified. Many despise Catherine for her selfishness and superficiality and Heathcliff for his cruelty and angst, but they are not supposed to be the perfect couple. Bronte focuses on the dark side of love and makes the reader wonder what is love’s purpose: to create or destroy? burn with passion or engulf in flames? make lovers better or worse human beings?

Wuthering Heights is easily one of my top five books of all time, but if you like traditional romance novels with cheery prince-like male love interests, then you won’t like this book. But if you appreciate raw, often ugly, all-consuming love, then don’t hesitate and pick up this book now.

And if I only write one novel, like Emily, then I just hope it’s a fraction as good as hers, because it truly is a masterpiece.

Favorite Quote: “‘And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!'” (Ch. 16)