Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Daring the Heights

It is no secret to anyone that the book I like the absolute least in the entire world is Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte (sister to the author of one of my favorite books in the entire world, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte). Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff are two of the most despicable fictional characters of all time, who do nothing but mess up life for other people, and are wholly undeserving of true love. The only redeeming quality I see in the book is the fact that it is beautifully written; unfortunately, the story itself is awful enough to steer me away from the book entirely.

However, it is equally no secret that I absolutely loved April Lindner's Jane, a modern, young-adult adaptation of Jane Eyre.

When she released Catherine earlier this year - styled around Wuthering Heights' own Catherine, and recreating the tragic love story of Catherine, Heathcliff, and all of those innocent bystanders in the vicinity of their love whose lives get thrown into utter turmoil because those two specific people happen to suck THAT much - I was thrown into a quandary.

Fortunately for me, my loyalty to awesome new authors far outranks my distaste for those who died in the 19th century, and I took a chance on what turned out to be a really fabulous retelling. Therefore, April Lindner's Catherine, which transplanted Bronte into the wilds of the East Coast and her epic-ly awful love story into a battle in rock 'n' roll history, was officially on my TBR list (And, thankfully, on the YA shelves at our local library).

In case you haven't read the original, the lead romantic characters in Wuthering Heights, are, while undeniably iconic and usually unbelievably dubbed among the greatest romantic duos of all time, awful. In Catherine, they are not only made more human, but even moderately likeable, if not a little less selfish and stupid, and a little more worthy of my sympathy (in a "kicked puppy that grew up to be a vicious Chihuahua that bites the fingers of children that try to pet it" way).

Transition from classic-to-modern novel had a few more gaps and glaring dissimilarities than in Jane, but overall, I feel that the task was accomplished quite well: from the moors to NYC, from Wuthering Heights to  The Underground, from a brooding estate manager to a tortured nightclub owner, etc.

It is fast-paced, and its characters jump to conclusions that I'm not even sure that Evil Knievel would make, but if you already have a mental map left over from having read Wuthering Heights (like The Cheerleader did, for summer homework, lol), it's easy to orient yourself within the change of chronological description: the novel completely ousts Mr. Lockwood as narrator, and instead, utilizes Catherine's diary and the first-person narration of her daughter, clarifyingly-named Chelsea - instead of Less-Evil Catherine or Catherine 2.0 - to move the story. This allowed for me to connect to the two characters a bit more as well, as you are forced to sympathize with the storyteller, and I think that was probably the best change between the old and the new.

Chelsea, in particular, was impetuous and audacious, and her stubborn unwillingness to compromise what she loved for anyone perfectly mirrored the same qualities in her mother. Even though descriptions of both characters were few and far between (for starters, I'm still not entirely sure what they look like, because I certainly didn't picture the power-stanced girl on the cover), you could still see similarities in their attitudes, which I loved.

However, in the end, I don't think that the classic itself made the cut: the end result resembled less of the tried-and-tired English standby, and more of a new and unique (though still  flawed) young adult novel. We lost things that really bugged me, like the complete inability to relate to the lead characters, but we lost most of the Gothic nature of it all (that being said, there were a couple of creepy elements that I appreciated, but they were a little too brief for my spookiness standards).

Overall, it's a hip and exciting update on the dark-and-dreary classic, that keeps it all modern, while still hanging on to some ghosts, in more ways than one.

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