Audiobook review – Wuthering Heights

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After trying Jane Eyre (see my review HERE) and finding, much to my surprise, that I enjoyed it immensely, I thought I’d try some more books like that. I bought Villette but found it astonishingly boring and returned it, so here’s my thoughts on Wuthering Heights instead. Tomorrow I’ll post a review of Daphne du Marier’s Rebecca (review is now up here), with the same author’s My Cousin Rachel to follow.

Wuthering Heights was written by Emily Bronte, sister of Charlotte who penned Jane Eyre (and Villette), so I was expecting the books to be similar. They are both part of the same “gothic romance” genre I believe but, to my mind, they’re not really that alike. Where Jane Eyre, the character, was likeable and you wanted her to do well, I felt like every single person in Wuthering Heights was, well, an asshole, frankly. Even the children all seem to be nasty to one another which leads to the main male character growing into adulthood with a massive chip on his shoulder, planning to destroy his childhood enemies AND their offspring! This is revenge of biblical proportions.

I didn’t see any romance in this book, it was just descriptions of long, dreary days in a house in the middle of nowhere, broken occassionally by people being evil to one another. Much of the tale is told by a servant woman who seems to have her head screwed on more than the rest of the hateful cast but even then, you spend the whole time thinking “Why doesn’t this idiot tell the other people what’s going on? She clearly knows what’s coming.”

That seems to be a theme in these books: silly women who allow the world around them to toss them about like a ship in a storm, as if they don’t have any freewill of their own. Rebecca has a similar main character as we’ll see (although du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel switches the sex of the dunce), and Jane Eyre suffered from it too although she at least was strong in many ways. That meant the ending of Jane Eyre, while not exactly “happy” was at least satisfying, but Wuthering Heights ends abruptly and left me wondering if I’d missed something. I even rewound the audio to check if I had, but no – that’s it! Generations of people being hateful to one another, some of them die, everything is bleak and crushingly depressing, The End.

WTF?

I have to say, I DID enjoy the storytelling, it was very well done. I wanted to know what would happen next and I listened constantly any chance I got. However, it would have been nice to have some glimmer of hope at the end. It does finish with two of the characters getting together, but they’ve despised one another for years and it seemed unbelieveable to me that they’d have put all that behind them, especially since one of them is portrayed as a complete half-wit for the whole book, gurning and squinting foolishly from one scene to another.

So, to sum up, it’s a good listen despite its faults, and I would recommend it, but the Bronte sisters must have had a pretty depressing life if their books are anything to go by. I might try The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by the final sibling, Anne, but from reviews it appears that’s another rather grim listen.

Oh, there are a couple of versions of this on Audible – one costs about £18 or so and looks like a high quality production, but I saw this one for just 78p so thought I’d try it first. Glad I did, the narrator was fine if a bit dreary (perfect fit for the tale) – bargain!

Rating – 4/5

 

Just a footnote – I’ve read a few reviews of Wuthering Heights with lots of  people really loving it. It’s possible that the narrator in my version, who has a dreary way of reading, made the already grim text seem even darker which has coloured my view of it. One of the reviews on Audible for this edition gave it 1 star for the narration and said her reading made him want to slit his wrists! So perhaps that should be taken into account….

Have you read/listened to the book? What did you think? Is it as grim as it seemed to me?

Look out tomorrow for my review of Rebecca which, I’ll admit now, I liked better than Wuthering Heights.

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