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Tuesday 27 January 2009

EED Bookclub Month 1: Wuthering Heights (Spiny) [DrDave]

Well, the first month is nearly up, so hopefully we should have lots of confused, depressed and newly-linguistically archaic readers desperate to type out their thoughts on Wuthering Heights.
So when you're done, tell us what you think. There's no rush. We'll only kick off the next book when a majority has finished, so take your time.

To get us going, I've nicked a list of discussion topics on this book from the internet.
  1. To what extent do you think the setting of the novel contributes to, or informs, what takes place?
  2. Do you think the novel is a tale of redemption, despair, or both? Discuss the novel's meaning to you. Do you think the novel's moral content dictates one choice over the other?
  3. Discuss Bronte's use of twos: Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange; two families, each with two children; two couples (Catherine and Edgar, and Heathcliff and Isabella); two narrators; the doubling-up of names. What is Bronte's intention here?
  4. Analyze the character of Edgar Linton. Is he a sympathetic figure? How does he compare to Heathcliff?
  5. Who or what does Heathcliff represent in the novel? Is he a force of evil or a victim of it?How important is the role of class in the novel, particularly as it relates to Heathcliff and his life?

I think that's sufficiently high-brow. We might get a government grant to create The EED Institute For Higher Learning And Literary Awareness at this rate.


  1. I'm not done yet, but I've a couple of things to share from what I've read so far. First, the level of analysis is a bit distracting. There's pages and pages of forward, and the whole thing is scattered with footnotes. Quite a few of them are required I guess because of the language, but it does draw you away from the narrative. Second, I'm having a hard time getting that damn Kate Bush song out of my head every time I pick the book up. 'It's mee-a Kathee-a...' gah!


  2. Thrushcross Grange? That's some sort of STD innit?


  3. In all honesty, I have just started reading. Ordered it, took a while to get here. I havent read much in years and its not in my habbit so i have to really remember to pick it up. Its also in English, I have to make due with not understanding some words, but I think i get the general picture. Ill just see how far I have come along when you lot finish... i think waiting for me would mean you never start another book hahahaha!


  4. In truth, I think we might be about to call time on this one. The position seems to be that it was a tricky book to start with...
    So come on, show of hands, who is secretly wishing they'd never started it?
    Not finishing a book, incidentally, is not a failure. It's a valid result. We get to talk about why we didn't finish it. If we didn't like it, why we didn't like it. A negative result is still, after all, a data point.
    I'm about 50 pages from the end, so I'm going to stick with it to the end. I can't say I've enjoyed it though so far. The language I found alternately compelling and annoying. It seems to lurch from being excuisitely crafted and florid, to being long-winded and weighty. A product of the period I suppose.
    I've also been a little surprised by how few of the characters are in any way sympathetic. Of the two main characters, Cathy and Heathcliff, I found their motivations to be confusing and their reactions tiresome and overwrought. The peripheral characters are not much better - Edgar is a fop, Hindley was a dick and Hareton not much better. And did anyone understand a word of what Joseph said?
    It surprises me that Gordon Brown once compared himself to Heathcliff. Why would someone want to be compared to a violent, masochistic, jealous, murderous, vengeful character? I suspect Mr Brown hadn't read the book and, like me, assumed that Cathy and Heathcliff were stereotypical windswept romantic leads.
    On the plus side: parts of it are quite interesting. I loved the scene where Heathcliff overhears Cathy talking about him and storms out, very well told. And the book manages to convey a convincing sense of bleak isolation very well. It just needs to be 150 pages shorter.


  5. Oh dear, went to the library, found it in the english section, got impressed looks from hideous woman behind counter went o the bus to work and started to read it.
    For the first few days i just thought it was because i hadnt read in a while, but it started to creep in, its the grammar and an absolute shitload of words and whole expressions that just doesnt compute. Add to this a totally alien social world, fuck, they are all bizarre, the reactions are bizarre. Its like trying to understand a flock of teen girls. You kinda know the language right, but it just doesnt make any sense at all. Basically it takes 2-4 pages after every start (sometimes more) until i start to get pictures and any kind of flow.
    I will finish this one day, but as a book on a commute, lets just say im through a thirdand this wont happen any day soon.


  6. I actually finished it.
    Okay, so I really didn't enjoy it for the most part. Lotta, your Swedishness would have played no part in your difficulty understanding the prose, I found it very hard going myself. It really is a different way not only of writing, but of thinking as well. The word order is different and difficult to follow to the modern mind, and words sometimes have different meanings to those we're familiar with. The use of quirky, untranslated dialects didn't help either. Combine this with utterly incomprehensible character motivations and it all makes for a difficult read.
    The story: well, I actually enjoyed the last 50 or so pages. It moved faster, there were far more pivotal, tense scenes and it was strangely gratifying to see Heathcliff's revenge play out, and then ultimately prove to be thwarted as Catherine 2 ended up with Hareton. There was a strange sense of history being corrected, as if Catherine 2's romance with Hareton corrected the doomed and destructive relationship between Catherine 1 and Heathcliffe, with the second Catherine allowing herself to end up with a man she viewed as her inferior - the irony being that Heathcliff himself was the one that corrected history, quite against his wishes.
    One final thought: I was most struck by how fragile and brief life was in the late 18th century - people seemed to catch a cold and be dead within the week. I suppose it highlights how different life is without vaccination and inoculation, where life expectancy was seldom over 30. Amusing that Nelly was portrayed as the wise old matriarch, despite being only 45 herself.
    Right, you can all stop reading now. Go get involved in something a little more contemporary.

  7. I am sorry to admit that I havent come far in Wuthering Heights yet. What I have read so far, I have found to be an uneasy kind of admosphere and indeed conduct towards eachother that is set in a time period that is just basicly uptight. I was surprised that it read a lot easier then I had expected after the very long winded interlude about the Bronte sisters. And aye, I cant read a bloody word of what Joseph says... I have to read it outloud and keep the accent in mind.I have a quite vivid imagination but with the way things were discribed it was hard for me to imagine the scene. I have to read back a few lines to even remember what it was about.That is as far as I can comment.This wasnt a good start on my part as contributing to the bookclub, I hope it will fair better on the next book.

  8. I'm with the swede on this one, I'm trying to enjoy it but it's not easy. I keep finding myself distracted by trying to work out what's going on rather than just concentrating on the plot and the use of outdated language doesn't help either. Good effort, but I think we need something we'll all enjoy a bit more.