Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Classics Challenge: February AND March (both written in April)

Although I have not been prominent around here, I have been reading steadily and completed both Wuthering Heights and The Blue Castle in February.

Wuthering Heights is very hard to put down and I read it in a week. But although I love the ending and the beginning is good, the middle can be quite depressing, especially if read in only a few long sittings that tend to be in depressing atmospheres (i.e., sitting in the quickly fading sun on a Sunday afternoon, as I was).  Also, there are only a few characters who are admirable or even likable (I'm looking at you, Nelly Dean). But then you reach the end, and *COULD BE A SPOILER, depending on how you remember this as you read it* one particular character dies, *END POSSIBLE SPOILER* and everything is cheerful again.
I had heard that WH was creepy and haunting and that was why I avoided it, but it really wasn't. There is a creepy scene towards the beginning *SPOILER* with a ghostly child and broken glass and Lockwood being horribly cruel *END SPOILER* but that is about it.
It is not great, but I liked it. To quote from Charlotte Brontë's preface, "Wuthering Heights was hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, out of homely materials."
There is no perfect novel, and WH certainly isn't. I often value characters more than plots, and I thought the characters were well drawn in WH. Some (such as Joseph) may not be terribly realistic, but Emily makes you believe they are.
The language is easier to read than Jane Austen, I think, except for several quotations from rustic Englishmen where the accent is written out (read them out loud to decipher them).

I think there were several quotes I liked, but the one I remember in particular was from Nelly/Ellen Dean (because apparently Nelly is a nickname for Ellen, or vice versa. Kind of like Nancy/Anne), spoken to Catherine (the younger): "You'll lose nothing by being civil." I love that.

Do I recommend this book, and to whom? I would recommend it to teenagers and above, with the above caution of its depressive-inducing powers. Read it during the day. There is also some mild language (I think "hell" was used out of context and also "d---".)

The Blue Castle doesn't really have things I could complain about — there is the same mild language as above, but nothing else — but I found it unsatisfying. How to explain that I could not really say.
First, a summary:
Valancy lives a very dreary life trying to satisfy her reams of family members with all their particularities. She is an "old-maid" (twenty-nine), despite trying hard to be respectable and modest and well-behaved. Then she gets a letter from a heart specialist telling her she only has a year to live, and she realizes she no longer needs please everyone. If she will die in a year, why be nice to rude old Uncle Benjamin in fear of being written out of his will? Why try to pacify her pushy, sensitive mother by cowering in submission and meek apology after imagined slights?

Well, I like Valancy's post-letter spirit...
but I don't like some of her morals.
Barney is okay...
but I'm not attracted to him.
The story-line is very creative...
but it was kind of anticlimactic.

If you are an Anne-fan, Montgomery's writing is still beautiful and humorous. Her characters are unique and amusing as always. But the story of Anne of Green Gables is much better, and the romance is much more... satisfying. I'm not sure how else to describe it but vaguely unsatisfying. Perhaps because the ending was rather anticlimactic, as mentioned above. *ENORMOUS HUGE TERRIBLE SPOILER (but I think I kind of guessed it)* Valancy finds out, perhaps 7/8 of the way through the book (I just made up that number :P ), that the letter was a mistake. She's not going to die after all. So she runs away from Barney (she fell in love and asked him to marry her, which he did because she was going to die in less than a year) in shame and horror and goes back to the dreary life. For twenty-four hours that is, because he runs after her (he fell in love with her after they married, you see). Oh, and he's filthy rich so they need never worry about anything and she can travel the world as she's always wanted. The end. See what I mean? *END THESE TERRIBLE SPOILERS*

Also, *ANOTHER SPOILER COULD-BE if you read into what I say* I guessed the identity of John Foster right away and I disliked that. I think this was partially because I read Dear Mr. Knightley just before, though. *END SPOILER*
L. M. Montgomery was basically a transcendentalist, and this comes through much stronger than in the Anne series.

Do I recommend this book, and to whom? If you are a Montgomery enthusiast, you will probably enjoy this book, if nothing else for the characters.

 It is not one I will reread and reread just for fun, but I do plan on revisiting it when I have the chance, to perhaps get a better handle on it (and learn why it doesn't sit right with me) by a second reading.
 photo awdursignature_zps319c67b7.png


  1. I was going to buy Wuthering Heights the other day, but a different book caught my eye, still might get it.

    1. You should! Or at least check it out at the library.


Spill your thoughts. Observe common courtesy. You'll make me happy.