Published in 1847, WUTHERING HEIGHTS was not well received bythe reading public, many of whom condemned it as sordid, vulgar,and unnatural--and author Emily Bronte went to her grave in 1848believing that her only novel was a failure. It was not until 1850,when WUTHERING HEIGHTS received a second printing with anintroduction by Emilys sister Charlotte, that it attracted a widereadership. And from that point the reputation of the book hasnever looked back. Today it is widely recognized as one of thegreat novels of English literature. Even so, WUTHERING HEIGHTS continues to divide readers. It isnot a pretty love story; rather, it is swirling tale of largelyunlikeable people caught up in obsessive love that turns to darkmadness. It is cruel, violent, dark and brooding, and many peoplefind it extremely unpleasant. And yet--it possesses a grandeur oflanguage and design, a sense of tremendous pity and great loss thatsets it apart from virtually every other novel written. The novel is told in the form of an extended flashback. Aftera visit to his strange landlord, a newcomer to the area desires toknow the history of the family--which he receives from Nelly Deans,a servant who introduces us to the Earnshaw family who once residedin the house known as Wuthering Heights. It was once a cheerfulplace, but Old Earnshaw adopted a Gipsy child who he namedHeathcliff. And Catherine, daughter of the house, found in him theperfect companion: wild, rude, and as proud and cruel as she. Butalthough Catherine loves him, even recognizes him as her soulmate,she cannot lower herself to marry so far below her social station.She instead marries another, and in so doing sets in motion anobsession that will destroy them all.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS is a bit difficult to get into; theopening chapters are so dark in their portrait of the end result ofthis obsessive love that they are somewhat off-putting. But theyfeed into the flow of the work in a remarkable way, setting thestage for one of the most remarkable structures in all ofliterature, a story that circles upon itself in a series ofrepetitions as it plays out across two generations. Catherine andHeathcliff are equally remarkable, both vicious and cruel, and yetnever able to shed their impossible love no matter how brutally onemay wound the other. As the novel coils further into alcoholism, seduction, and oneof the most elaborately imagined plans of revenge it gathers into aghostly tone: Heathcliff, driven to madness by a woman who is notthere but who seems reflected in every part of his world--draggingher corpse from the grave, hearing her calling to him from themoors, escalating his brutality not for the sake of brutality butso that her memory will never fade, so that she may never leave hismind until death itself. Yes, this is madness, insanity, and thereis no peace this side of the grave or even beyond. It is a stunning novel, frightening, inexorable, unsettling,filled with unbridled passion that makes one cringe. Even if you donot like it, you should read it at least once--and those who dolike it will return to it again and again