What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix Book Review

Wuthering Heights has been a beloved classic for centuries. The turbulent relationship between the orphaned Heathcliff and his adopted sister Catherine has enthralled audiences since 1847.

What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix, by Tasha Suri, is a YA reboot of the novel. It was published last month.

In the late 1780s, Heathcliff is the son of an unknown lascar (a sailor from the then British colonies who made their living by working on European ships). Taken in by Mr. Earnshaw, a landowner from Yorkshire, he is immediately labeled as an outsider. Though he tries to remain true to his Indian roots, it creates an even bigger chasm between himself and the family he has been brought into.

Catherine is the younger Earnshaw child. From an early age, she knows what her future will be: marry a man of appropriate stature (and wealth) and bear his children. Even if it means hiding her true nature in the process and slowly dying inside.

Though they appear to be completely different on the surface, they have a bond that is deep and unbreakable. When Catherine’s father dies, everything changes, and not for the better. The cruel treatment that Heathcliff receives goes from 0 to 60 the minute that his adopted father is in the ground.

The question is, will they be themselves and build a life together? Or will they give into the expectations of the greater society around them?

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I was blown away by this book. It is one of my favorite books that I have read this year. Using Bronte’s original as source material, Suri takes the narrative in new directions. While delving into colonialism, racism, gender lines, and the strict class structure of the period, she gives the reader new insights into the characters. Like its sister novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, the world expands beautifully beyond the original text.

Most of it takes place in the three years after Catherine says that she cannot marry Heathcliff. While she is flirting with the idea of marrying Edgar Linton, he is doing everything he can to make his name and his fortune. Even if that means getting involved with some shady characters.

If I had to choose a favorite part of the book, it is when Hindley (Catherine’s brother) stops being a drunken brute for a minute and reveals secrets that their father would have preferred to remain buried.

My only warning is that I recommend reading Bronte’s original novel first.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix is available wherever books are sold.

Throwback Thursday: In Search of the Brontës (2003)

A good biopic does more than lay out the basic facts about the life and work of the subject(s). It brings that story and the subject(s) to life, creating a connection between the audience and the characters.

In Search of the Brontës (2003) is a one-hour TV movie that told the story of the Bronte sisters, their work, and their family. Starring as the sisters are Victoria Hamilton (Charlotte Bronte), Elizabeth Hurran (Emily Bronte), and Alexandra Milman (Anne Bronte). Behind them is Patrick Malahide as their widower father Patrick and Jonathan McGuiness as their only brother, Branwell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hour of television. It is a fascinating and deeply moving tale of three of the most beloved writers in literary history. The acting is fantastic and the actors are perfectly cast, giving the viewer the opportunity to get to know the characters outside of the dry historical facts that we know all too well.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

There’s Something About Darcy: The curious appeal of Jane Austen’s bewitching hero Book Review

There are certain cultural shorthands that we all know, even if we are unaware of the deeper context of the specific reference. When we talk about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, he is symbolic of a romantic ideal that many aspire to, even if that aspiration is far from reality.

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There’s Something About Darcy: The curious appeal of Jane Austen’s bewitching hero, by Gabrielle Malcolm, was published last year. In the book, Malcolm examines the origins of Austen‘s most famous leading man, how he has inspired other romantic male leads, and how he has evolved over time. Creating the connection between the characters in her time, Dr. Malcolm explains how later male characters such as Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff, and even Dracula can trace their origins to Fitzwilliam Darcy. She then looks into how Jane Austen fanfiction has taken the character in new directions and new narratives that her creator could not have even imagined.

I loved this book. The author creates a nice balance of academic authority and adoring fandom without veering too heavily in either direction. It was a fascinating deep dive into this man who has become both a romantic icon and a character type for many a romantic male lead since 1813.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Happy Birthday Anne Bronte!

During Anne Bronte‘s time, the expectations of woman’s life was simple: marry upon reaching adulthood, bring children (boys preferably) into the world, support her husband and live a quiet, appropriately feminine life. But Anne Bronte was not just any woman and she did not come just any family.

With her elder sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne has become one of a handful of 19th century women writers whose influence has lasted long after her brief time on Earth. Her two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, speak to a woman’s condition and what she must endure because she is a woman.

Agnes Grey is about a young woman who works as a governess for wealthy families. Her charges are spoiled and wild, their parents do nothing to curb their bad behavior. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is about spousal abuse, alcoholism and the choices that some women must make to remove themselves and their children from that environment.

The thing that I love about her books is that they are grounded in the real world, as a pose to the fantasy-ish world of her sister’s novels. An example of this is the romanticizing of Heathcliff in Emily’s Wuthering Heights. Upon the first read, Heathcliff is the romantic hero pining for Catherine Earnshaw. But Heathcliff reveals himself to be a brute and have serious anger issues.

In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne reveals the harsh truth of what it is to live with an abusive spouse. In her era, divorce was hard to come by and marriage was for life. Women were told to look the other way when their husbands acted less than honorably.

If there is one takeaway I have from both books, it is that the issues that she wrote about are still front and center today. Which is why Anne Bronte and her books are still being read today.

Wherever she is, I wish her a very happy birthday.

The Bronte Myth Book Review

Among the great writers of the 19th century, the Bronte sisters stand tall. Lionized as proto-feminists and adored in the literary community for their contribution to the world of literature, fans sometimes have to ask themselves where fact ends and fiction begins.

In 2001, Lucasta Miller published The Bronte Myth. The book starts with the brief lives of the Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte and follows their posthumous celebrity as their image is shaped to fit the needs of the biographer. In the book, Ms. Miller delves deeply into the facts and the myths of the Brontes and how both have been used to tell the story of the legendary sisters.

When I heard about The Bronte Myth, the concept sounded interesting. I am sorry to report that the concept I had in my head did not meet reality.

The book is not for the casual or virgin Bronte fan. It borders on academic and is probably better suited for a reader who is well versed in the story of the Bronte sisters, their brother Branwell and father Patrick. But my main issue is that Ms. Miller spent most of the book talking about Charlotte. Granted, Charlotte lived the longest of her siblings, but the book is not entitled The Charlotte Bronte Myth. She spends about 60% of the book talking about Charlotte, 20% talking about Emily. The other 20% are given to Anne, Branwell and Patrick. I think I would have liked this book more if all of the Bronte siblings and their father were given equal attention.

Do I recommend it? Sort of.

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Character Review: Angel

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Read at your own risk if you have not watched one or both television series. In this series of character reviews, I will strictly be writing about the characters from the television series, not the 1992 film.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Since the beginning of storytelling, there has always been something about the brooding bad boy or girl with a romantic streak.The audience knows that this person might be trouble, but they also fall for the softer side of this character. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, this character is Angel (David Boreanaz). Angel makes his first appearance in the Buffy pilot. He appears to be the older, romantic bad boy who often appears in movies or television shows that focus on teenage girls.

But Angel is more than that. He is completely aware of who she is while hiding his own secret. He is vampire who is cursed with a soul. After Buffy and Angel sleep together (and he has a moment of pure happiness), his soul is gone and he reverts to his previous identity, Angelus. Angelus gets off on torturing Buffy until his soul is returned and he must come to terms that his relationship with Buffy is not meant to last.

After leaving Sunnydale, Angel opens his own supernatural detective agency in Los Angeles. Initially aided by Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and Doyle (the late Glenn Quinn), Angel works to protect the city from the darkest of supernatural forces. He also becomes a father and continues to fight against evil while protecting those he loves.

To sum it up: While the bad boy with the romantic streak may initially sound appealing, the reality is that the relationship may not last. But then again, not all romantic relationships are meant to last forever. As a character, viewers (myself included), fell in love with Angel. We watched him grow from a Heathcliff type character to a character who, in spite of his past, becomes a hero. That is why nearly twenty years later, fans still return to vampire bad boy turned hero of their younger years.

Thoughts On Wuthering Heights & Emily Bronte On The Anniversary Of Her Birth

In her lifetime, Emily Bronte saw her first and only novel, Wuthering Heights published.

From the outside looking in (and from the view of Victorian culture), the second to last Miss Bronte was not exactly noteworthy. She was the daughter of a curate in a small Yorkshire town who preferred her animals, her poetry and the small society of her family to the outside world. Uninterested in fashion, marriage, gossip or any of the standard interests of the day for young ladies, she was wholly herself and didn’t give a fig what someone else thought about her.

Today is her 200th birthday.

Wuthering Heights is the tale of tortured love, classicism and revenge. Her protagonists are Healthcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. Catherine is the daughter of a respectable house, Heathcliff is her adopted brother whose origins are unknown. As they grow up, their relationship changes from childhood playmates to young people in love. But then the reality of their world comes crashing down. Catherine marries another man. Healthcliff gives into his long simmering rage. Soon their dysfunctional relationship affects everyone around them, no one remains untouched.

At the time of its publishing, critics didn’t know what to make of this novel. 200 years later, we recognize Emily for the literary genius that she is. Other writers might have romanticized the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine. But in Emily hand’s, her lead characters are deeply flawed. Heathcliff has a temper and is more than willing to inflict violence on another person if he feels that the situation calls for it. Catherine is spoiled and selfish, too comfortable in her status to choose the man she loves over the comfort of a proper home and a wealthy husband.

In the end, we keep coming back to Wuthering Heights because of those flaws. Emily was adept at creating characters that revealed the best and worst of humanity. She died at the young age of 30, today we can only speculate what she could have done as a writer had she lived longer.

Wherever you are Emily, Happy Birthday.

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke Series #1) Book Review

Love sometimes comes from the most unexpected of places.

In The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke Series #1) by Tessa Dare, Emma Gladstone is the daughter of a vicar who works as a seamstress and has been on her own since she was a teenager. The last thing she is looking for or expecting is say I do, especially to a member of the aristocracy. The Duke of Ashbury has two scars to deal with: the physical scars from the war and the emotional scars from the breakup of his engagement. Emma walks into the Duke’s library wearing what would have been his fiance’s wedding dress, demanding payment for her labors. But the Duke has another idea.

He proposes marriage, but there will be conditions to the marriage. The marital bed is only for procreation of a necessary heir, the marriage is a marriage of convenience and once Emma is pregnant, she will retire to the country to raise their child. But Emma, who reluctantly says yes to the proposal, has conditions of her own: Until such time when she is confirmed as pregnant, they will have dinner together and talk like a married couple during dinner.

At first, Emma keeps her part of the bargain, until she starts to fall for her husband. But the Duke is the harder nut to crack. Despite his intentions of limiting their marital relations, it’s becoming harder to keep his hands off his wife.

I normally don’t read these kind of books, but I found this book to be well written. Ms. Dare easily hooks her reader and has created two lead characters who stand out from the standard lead characters that readers encounter in the genre. Emma is intelligent, strong and not afraid to say what is on her mind. While the Duke initially comes off as this brooding Heathcliff  type, he is slowly revealed to be a man who loves passionately and deeply, but also lives with multiple emotional scars that have not healed.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

 

 

Wuthering Heights Character Review: Catherine Linton

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Whether or not they are aware of it, parents will sometimes pass on their emotional scars to their children. The question is, if and when the child becomes aware that their parents emotional scar has become their scar, do they find a way to heal or let the scar remain open?

Catherine Linton is the living embodiment of emotional scars that are passed from one generation to the next. Her mother, also Catherine Linton (née Earnshaw), died soon after the birth of her daughter, torn between her husband and her soulmate/adopted brother, Heathcliff.  Raised by her indulgent father and Nelly, her late mother’s housekeeper, Catherine is protected from the world.

Then Heathcliff enters Catherine’s life and the emotional scars from the previous generation are brought into the light. Still resenting the loss of his true love to Edgar Linton, Heathcliff (who is also Catherine’s uncle), kidnaps the girl, knowing full well that she is her father’s heir. Catherine is forced to marry her cousin, Linton and watch Heathcliff take Thruthcross Grange as his own after the death of her father.

Soon Catherine becomes a widow herself. Her only consolation is Nelly, who is once more the housekeeper at Wuthering Heights and her other cousin, Hareton Earnshaw. Abused and imprisoned by Heathcliff, Catherine is no shrinking violet. She is her mother’s child and uses every ounce of her energy to hold onto her dignity and self respect. In the end, it is Catherine and Hareton who will walk away from the tragedy that is Wuthering Heights, finally healing the scars of the previous generation.

 

To sum it up: Scars can heal, if we let them. Or we can let them fester. Catherine chooses to let the scars heal. In doing so, the ghosts of the past are finally able to rest and Catherine and Hareton are able to walk off into the sunset together. As writers, we have a choice on how to end our stories. More important than the choice of ending, it has to feel right for the narrative and the characters. In choosing her own version of a happy ending for her novel, Emily Bronte is able to successfully end her narrative with a closing feels natural. If the ending of war is peace, than the ending of Wuthering Heights is as it ought to be.

Wuthering Heights Character Review: Linton Heathcliff

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Some characters are unfortunately fated to die young. As much as the writer or the audience would like see the character live into their golden years,  for some it is not simply meant to be.

In Wuthering Heights, this is the fate of Linton Heathcliff. The son of Isabella Linton and Heathcliff, the reader meets Linton as a young man. Hidden in London by his mother, Linton only returns to Thrushcross Grange (the Linton family estate) after his mother’s death. At first, Linton is safe with his uncle Edgar Linton and his cousin, Catherine. Then Heathcliff hears that his boy is back in the neighborhood and demands that Edgar hand over the boy.

Linton is a sickly young man who sometime comes off as spoiled. He is forced to marry his cousin Catherine by his father and dies soon after. The last victim of the emotional turmoil that stretches over the entire narrative, his death marks a turning point that will finally heal the wounds that have remained open for two generations.

To sum it up: As sad as the death of a character can be, it can also represent change and new opportunities. While Linton’s death is indeed sad, it also closes the door on the past and paves the way for Hareton and Catherine to start a new life elsewhere. As writers, we have to remember that death is more than the physical being dying. It can be representative of change, new opportunities and the closing of the door of what was.

 

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