#Victober Update: Wuthering Heights

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Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte
Published 1847
#Victober Readathon

Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine's father. After Mr Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine's brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

I've seen people going crazy over this book. In the past I've just rolled my eyes and ignored them: now I understand why. In fact, now I feel a bit stupid for not having read it sooner.

If you're going to write a romance novel - this is how you do it.

Mr Lockwood, a tenant at Thrushcross Grange, visits his Tennant at Wuthering Heights. There in the vast, bleak Yorkshire moors he meets the mysterious Heathcliff. As the book continues, we find out the tragic backstory behind Heathcliff's life and the dark secrets of his past.


I'm pretty sure I'd count this as one of the best books I've read this year. If I was pushed, I'd say it was the best.

On the writing - it's beautiful. It's hauntingly beautiful, and I don't think it's ever going to leave me. Every word seems to be perfect. Not only that, it's accompanied by a brilliant plot - complex, yes, but so much better because of it. It's one of those books that you can go back to again and again - and still find something that you hadn't discovered before. There's something so special about this book - maybe it's the gothic-ness, maybe it's the feeling of tragedy - that I can't quite put my finger on.

Something I was really surprised by all the negative reviews this gets. One of the main criticisms: the characters are unlikeable.

Yes, some of the characters are unlikeable. Some of them are snobby, rude, and some of them are downright pricks. But why does that make it a bad book? Ok, I see the attraction of reading about people you can relate to - root for, but I don't see why a book has to have likeable characters just to be enjoyed? In fact, I think Bronte's characters are one of her greatest triumphs here. They came alive on the page. I'm pretty sure Heathcliff is one of the best characters I've ever seen written - I don't say that lightly. The prose is poetic, beautiful - and the characters thrive in it. I think the fact that they're unlikeable is one of the thing that contributes to the brilliant reading experience.

Read it, goddammit.
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#Victober Update - The Pickwick Papers

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The Pickwick Papers
Charles Dickens
Published 1837
#Victober Readathon

The Pickwick Papers is Dickens' first novel and widely regarded as one of the major classics of comic writing in English. Originally serialised in monthly instalments, it quickly became a huge popular success with sales reaching 40,000 by the final part.

From the hallowed turf of Dingley Dell Cricket Club to the unholy fracas of the Eatanswill election, via the Fleet debtor’s prison, characters & incidents sprang to life from Dickens’s pen, to form an enduringly popular work of ebullient humour & literary invention.

In the century and a half since its first appearance, the characters of Mr Pickwick, Sam Weller and the whole of the Pickwickian crew have entered the consciousness of all who love English literature in general, and the works of Dickens in particular.

It's taken me ages to write this review. I finished the book over a week ago - but it turns out reviewing Dickens is even harder than reading him.

That said, this was the complete opposite of what I was expecting. It was utterly different to what I thought I was opening up - the only thing I got right is that it's long. 900 pages, to be exact. But it's not the dull, bleak, depressing book I was waiting for - instead, it's light-hearted, funny and a joy to read.

This is Dickens' first book - definitely one of his most neglected, but certainly not bad. It follows the middle class Pickwick club travelling all over the country, getting themselves into all kinds of scrapes and situations. It never take itself seriously, and as soon as you get over the (dated) writing style the whole experience become... enjoyable.

There's some parts, even today, that I found pretty funny. Laugh out loud, snort tea through your nose, kind of funny. It's slapstick and light-hearted - but I never thought it got too carried away. Originally published in 19 separate episodes, and then compiled into a single novel, there are some chapters that are a little drier than others. However, the book always somehow manages to pick itself back up and continue to delight.

I think this is perfect if you want to get a foothold into the Dickens novels. It really could be called a collection of short stories - it almost is. The plot jumps around from place to place, and is often interspersed with stories narrated by minor characters (of which there are many). It's not the stereotypical Dickens, which I found slightly disappointing, but I found reading this useful to get used to his style before moving on to some of his chunkier works.

I didn't find the story as well-written as some of the later novels, and somehow I didn't feel an urge to want to finish the story quite like I do with some of his later books. That said, though, it's full of brilliant characters from start to finish and provides a wonderful first step into the world of Dickens.

Have you read any Dickens?

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