Review: The Sidekicks

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The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
Published by Penguin Random House Australia on the 29th February 2016
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac’s gone, what does that make them?

Will Kostakis is an author I’ve heard a lot about, but whose work I’ve never read. Given that his book The First Third received such high praise, and Kostakis has been in the press quite a bit recently, I decided to check out his most recent effort. Ultimately, this book left me wanting more – more from the characters, and more from the author.

The Sidekicks is split into three sections – we get the aftermath of Isaac’s death from Ryan, Harley, and Miles’ perspectives, with a slight overlap of events in each account. You really need to commend Kostakis here – it could’ve easily ended up a disjointed mess, but you walk away from this book feeling like you got to see the big picture. That said, there were times where it felt less like one coherent novel, and more like a collection of short novellas. Kostakis is quite good at characterising the leads – Ryan, Harley and Miles all have distinct voices, and despite the shortness of the book, all were fully developed characters with their own flaws and problems. The same can not be said for the side characters – teachers, other boys at school, they all seemed to blend in to one another. They felt like placeholders, rather than actual characters. I struggled to remember the smaller characters as we jumped from section to section and went back and forth over events.

Given the subject matter, I was expecting to feel more. It never really felt like the boys were grieving, just going through the motions of it. I was told that they were in pain, but I never really saw it. It felt like they only cared because Isaac held their secrets, but that was all he was good for. However, I did like that Kostakis seemed to be sending the message that grief is not “one size fits all,” that people experience grief in different ways. Also, that ending – that ending really did make me feel something. It was so heartwarming and… delightful to watch this unexpected friendship form.

Kostakis does have an easy writing style – there’s something about it that keeps you glued to the pages. There’s some great comedic moments in there despite the heavy subject matter, and the ending will leave you feeling a little uplifted.

All in all, a great concept of a book – maybe not perfectly executed, but enjoyable nonetheless. It’s a good little book about friendship and loss. Kostakis has managed to cover a lot in such a short novel, and I really do think it’ll be a hit amongst the YA crowd.

★★★☆☆

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

Penguin by Hand Series

Penguin seems to be a publisher that isn’t afraid to be innovative with its designs. I’ve loved a lot of their designs before – Penguin Threads & Puffin Chalk are the two that first come to mind – but they’ve really outdone themselves with their Penguin by Hand series. They’ve taken six books by female authors and asked six artists to come up with designs using different media, which has then be reproduced as a paperback cover.

You can get an in depth look at the process behind creating each cover over at Penguin’s blog.I think my favourite covers are The Help and The Jane Austen Book Club, what’s yours?

Reread 2016: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
First Published: 1958
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Rating: ★★★★★
Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a brilliant glimmer of the excitement of 40’s New York. Holly Golightly – brashly beautiful with a slim black dress, a mysterious past and dark glasses over varicoloured eyes – entrances all the men she meets, including the young writer living above her, though her recklessness may yet catch up with her.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of – if not my absolute – my favourite short stories. We became acquainted during my Audrey Hepburn phase – I picked up the book after watching the film adaptation, and was quite taken aback by how different the two were. Set in 1940s New York, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the story of the friendship between an unnamed narrator and Holly Golightly. Holly is a mystery to everyone who knows her – she appears to be a socialite, and gets by with money and gifts from wealthy young men.

At its core, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a character study. Holly is incredibly flawed; someone who is desperate to shake off her past and reinvent herself. You can never really get a fix on who she is – she constantly shifts between being cruel and kind, generosity and self-absorption – and in doing so you share the frustrations of those around her. She doesn’t want to be weighted down by connections or feelings. There’s one moment where her agent tells the narrator that Holly is a phony, but a real phony, because she believes the stories she tells.

Capote’s prose is… extraordinary. Every time I read, I’m struck by how lyrical it is, how easily Capote seems to be able to bring his story to life. You can almost smell Holly’s perfume and hear the cadence of her voice. This is one of the few stories where I will find myself deliberately going back to read lines again, savouring them as I go. My only complaint is that this book is too short – I’m always left wanting more.

★★★★★

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

 

Review: A Tangle of Gold

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A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
Published by Pan Macmillan on the 1st March 2016
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback | Purchased
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The Kingdom of Cello is in crisis. Princess Ko’s deception has been revealed and the Elite have taken control, placing the Princess, Samuel and Sergio under arrest and ordering their execution. Elliot is being held captive by the Hostiles and Colour storms are raging through the land. The Cello Wind has been silent for months.Plans are in place to bring the remaining Royals home from the World but then all communication between Cello and the World will cease. That means Madeleine will lose Elliot, forever. Madeleine and Elliot must solve the mystery of Cello before it is too late.

I originally finished this book last night (this book is the fastest read I’ve had all year, which is surprising, given that it’s also the thickest book I’ve read all year), and was going to wait a few days before posting a review. We were given so much information that I felt that I needed a couple of days to digest it all, but I’m so excited to talk about this book that a review is going up today, folks!

I’ve been a Moriarty fan since I was about ten, so it’s incredibly hard to sit down and write a review that doesn’t make me sound like a crazy fan. When reading, it was hard to separate what was good about the book from the fact that this was a book that I have been waiting for for a very long time. I think I can objectively say that The Colours of Madeleine has been a trilogy that just keeps getting better – every book, Moriarty ups her game. She presents information to her readers, but doesn’t spell it our for them. It was fascinating to watch her weave together bits of information given out in the earlier books, and it was thrilling as a reader to have that big reveal.

A Tangle of Gold was not only one of my most anticipated books for 2016, but one of my most anticipated books period. It was up there with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Quintana of Charyn in terms of how excited I was. Very rarely do books live up to (high) expectations, but I’m pleased to say that A Tangle of Gold was pretty much everything I was hoping for, and then some. Moriarty took plot twists to a whole new level.

This book saw the introduction of a new voice, so to speak – while written in third person, it flipped between Elliot’s and Madeleine’s perspectives. This time we also had Keira’s perspective, and her voice is distinctive and completely different from Madeleine’s or Elliot’s. While surprising – I have to admit I did initially find it a little odd that we had a third perspective – I felt that it added so much more to the story, and I loved getting to know a character that I’d previously dismissed because I didn’t think that she’d stick around.

Honestly, I’m finding it difficult to criticise this book – it’s been tightly plotted and well-written, the characters are well-drawn and distinctive. If I was pressed, I would say that some readers may find it overly complex and left feeling a little overwhelmed – you do get plot twist after plot twist after plot twist, and at one point I was thinking, “what other secrets has this series been hiding?” I really did find this book to be fantastic though, and I don’t want to spoil others by talking about it too much. I will say this: connections will be revealed, betrayals found out, and the political intrigue thickens. Also, the secret to immortality! … kind of.

This series has been ridiculously ambitious and amazingly original, and cemented Jaclyn Moriarty as one of the greats in Australian literature. I already want to return to Cello, and if that is not a sign of a good series, I don’t know what is. If you haven’t read it yet, move it up on your TBR list – you won’t regret it.

★★★★★

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

 

Review: I’ll See You in Paris

256638101 I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on the 9th February 2016
Pages: 400
Format: Ebook
Source: ARC
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After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.

Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?

The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last.

I finished this book a few weeks ago, left it a week to mull over my thoughts, realised I didn’t know how I felt about this book, decided to re-read it and I still don’t know how I feel about this book. I think it was a good idea, it could’ve just been better executed. There was so much going on, yet it felt like nothing was happening. The writing felt a little clumsy and flat, and the main characters didn’t really have any personality.

I’ll See You in Paris has two different time frames – the Vietnam War and the War on Terror, and would often change, without warning, between the two. I didn’t really feel this added anything to the book – except for perhaps some clumsy parallels between mother and daughter – and would’ve thought a more linear structure would’ve worked better (or even if Annie’s parts had bookended – no pun intended – Pru’s).

This book and I, we struggled. I’m usually a fairly focused reader, but I found my attention drifting while reading. The scenes seemed to drag along and sometimes without adding anything to the story – I didn’t really need the emails to/from Annie’s fiance, for example, and some of the interviews between Win and Mrs. Spencer dragged on far too long and felt indulgent – and I felt like nothing was really happening. It was fairly obvious how the story was going to pan out – I guessed who Pru and Win were in the ‘2001’ parts of the book fairly quickly. I also felt the book ended somewhat abruptly, and wish there was some kind of closure – perhaps an epilogue.

The characters lack any real personality . While Win is, on occasion, charming and Mrs. Spencer is always good for a laugh, although isn’t very likeable, for the most part, these characters don’t seem to act because they are forced to by circumstance. Ultimately, I didn’t really feel anything for any of the characters because they were one dimensional, and that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about any of them.

If I had to say something positive about the book, the last maybe 20% of the book is quite suspenseful – while certain suspicions are confirmed, there’s actually quite an interesting backstory for Laurel revealed, and this was, without a doubt, my favourite part of the book. Despite my complaints about the writing, there is also some nice prose in there if you look for it.

Not necessarily a bad read, but I felt like it was quite clumsy for start to finish, and could’ve done better. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right book for me, and others will enjoy it more! 

★★☆☆☆

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

 

Review: Shtum

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Shtum by Jem Lester
Published by Orion on the 7th April 2016
Pages: 368
Format: Ebook
Source: ARC
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Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships. Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

I requested this book on NetGalley because I found the premise intriguing, and while I didn’t love this book as much as I thought I would, I found it enjoyable and think it will be a resounding success for Lester.

Shtum is a book about the relationship between fathers and sons – and their inability to communicate with one another. In the case of Ben and Jonah, they are literally unable to communicate because Jonah’s autism means he is unable to speak; Ben and Georg don’t seem to speak about anything of importance. While it was clear that Ben loved his son and would go to great lengths for him, I found the relationship between Georg and Jonah to be poignant and more touching. The level of patience and care that Georg displayed towards Jonah was heart-warming, and the stories he tells the uninterested Jonah (and his reasoning behind telling him) about his family will surprise you.

In all honesty, I found it difficult to connect to Ben. Lester hasn’t shied away from creating a flawed, complex character, and while it makes Shtum a more believable story, I’m not sure it make it a better story. It’s possible to forgive Ben for his faults, but he wasn’t exactly a character I enjoyed spending four hundred-odd pages with. Ben’s problems are understandable – it cannot be easy caring for a child with autism. Ben struggles with the competing demands of Jonah and the family business, so Georg is handed the responsibility of caring for Jonah and the family business is left in the hands of its only employee (besides Ben) while Ben heads to the pub. Ben resents Georg for not being more open with him, but isn’t open with Georg; he’s angry at his (absent) wife, Emma, for wanting out of their relationship. Ben seems intent on creating more problems for himself, to the point it becomes wearisome and you stop hoping he’ll win and start wondering when he’s going to stop sabotaging himself.

Where there was too much of Ben, there was perhaps not enough of the female characters. I’m fine with this being a book about men and their relationships with one another – I expected this from the premise going in. But the female characters were one-dimensional and flat; seemingly used as either pretty ornaments or excuses for Ben’s awful behaviour. Emma is depicted as selfish and cold-hearted for leaving Ben and Jonah (although does get a little redemption arc towards the end);Ben’s mother as an alcoholic who cared little for her husband and son. I probably would have had more sympathy for Ben over the breakdown of his marriage had I a bit more insight into the early days of their relationship, but all we saw was a self-absorbed alcoholic and a woman desperate to be a mother. Ben came across as selfish, hypocritical, rude and drunk (I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree…), so I’m not sure why Jonah’s twenty-something teacher would flirt with Ben (or spend her personal time helping him care for Jonah), or why a blind date would show any interest in him.

Despite my complaints about Shtum, there is still much to love about it. Lester is able to make a novel touching with being overly-sentimental; he writes about serious subject matter while still being able to add a comedic touch when needed. This book ended on such a beautiful note that I finished it crying – and given that I spent a lot of the book being frustrated with Ben, I think it says a lot about Lester’s writing.

★★★☆☆

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

 

Review: The Wrath and The Dawn

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The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renée Ahdieh
Published by Penguin Random House Australia on the 12th May 2015
Pages: 388
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

This one was a mixed read for me. The second half was definitely stronger than the first – while the first half left me feeling underwhelmed, after that ending I cannot wait to get my hands on the second book.

The Wrath and the Dawn is an angsty romance inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. However, although this book was a romance, there were a lot of things I enjoyed about it, namely that the world was very different to typical YA worlds. Taking place in a world inspired by the Middle East, it was a breath of fresh air to see a world that wasn’t inspired by Medieval Europe. The supporting cast were three-dimensional and add something to the story. Shazi’s friendship with Despina is heartwarming and a much-needed female companion for her; Jalal charming and witty.

However, there was something missing – the writing felt stilted and emotionally distant. It was never explained why Khalid chose to let Shazi live beyond the first night. Shazi was given multiple opportunities to ~exact her revenge~ on Khalid, but she never does because there was a slight case of instalove, in that despite the fact Shazi offers to marry Khalid in order to kill him, two days into their marriage he’s already tugging on her heartstrings. The romance, while compelling, didn’t feel organic in the beginning.

Shazi’s retellings of the Arabian nights didn’t really add anything to the story – I found myself skimming some of them in order to get back to the main story because they were clumsily inserted and had zero subtext and I didn’t feel any emotional connection.

Finally, there’s a love triangle, which I could do without. I felt that it existed to make a ‘bad guy’ out of Tariq – because, honestly, you just know that Tariq and Shazi aren’t going to end up together, regardless of whether Shazi and Khalid end up together.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been shelving The Wrath and the Dawn as a fantasy, but it doesn’t have any fantastical elements to it – a few mentions of magic here and there, but nothing really to warrant a fantasy label. It felt more like a historical romance than anything else.

★★★☆☆

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

Review: Their Fractured Light

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Their Fractured Light (The Starbound Trilogy #3) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Published by Allen & Unwin on the 1st December 2015
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn’s a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck—now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world’s gaze. Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker—a whiz kid and an urban warrior. He’ll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don’t dare touch.

Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you’re done noticing it, she’s got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost. When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia’s separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they’re forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide.

This series has been the perfect combination of fluffy and science fiction. Although I had my reservations about this series after These Broken Stars, I’m glad that I kept with it – because it has turned into one of my favourite YA series. It’s actually quite epic and intricate, and despite the fact that these books are companion novels and feature different characters, it has been steadily working towards a bigger picture. There has been some Harry Potter-level plot building put into this trilogy, and I was in awe of how much planning went into these books.

The first half of the book was spent with Sofia (whom we had met in This Shattered World) and Gideon, and their interests in LaRoux Industries. The second half saw us reunite with the entire gang, raising the stakes for them and making what I felt to be a much stronger half of the book.

When I say the stakes were raised for everyone, I mean the stakes were raised. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I feared for Lilac and Tarver, who were struggling with Lilac’s connection to the whispers. I hoped that Jubilee and Flynn could have a better lot in life than what they’d been given. I felt for Sofia and Gideon, who had both reached a point in their lives where they felt they couldn’t trust anyone and that it was easier to live life without any ties to anyone. I was found myself emotionally invested in the characters and was reluctant to put the book down and leave the action.

My only quibble was getting little snippets from the whispers, which I felt was unnecessary (and kind of reminded me of AIDAN in Illuminae). I didn’t think they added that much to the story, and even though they were usually only a paragraph in length I found myself skipping over them to get back to the main action.

Their Fractured Light was a beautiful ending to a wonderful series. Everything that I felt maybe hadn’t been addressed properly in earlier books was wrapped up in this one, and it was the perfect send-off for these characters.

If you haven’t read The Starbound Trilogy, I highly recommend you do! Kaufman and Spooner are in the process of writing another trilogy (with a planned release for 2017), which has already gone on my auto-buy list. While I’m sad that this series has come to an end – and hope we’ll be able to revisit this world sometime in the future – I cannot wait to see what these talented ladies do next!

★★★★★

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

 

Review: Chimera

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Chimera (Parasitology #3) by Mira Grant
Published by Orbit on the 26th November 2015
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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The final book in Mira Grant’s terrifying Parasitology trilogy. The outbreak has spread, tearing apart the foundations of society, as implanted tapeworms have turned their human hosts into a seemingly mindless mob.Sal and her family are trapped between bad and worse, and must find a way to compromise between the two sides of their nature before the battle becomes large enough to destroy humanity, and everything that humanity has built…including the chimera.The broken doors are closing. Can Sal make it home?


Chimera was an excellent ending to the incredibly gross Parasitology trilogy (seriously – I couldn’t help but think about what it’d be like to have a tapeworm hanging around in my intestines, and the thought made me gag a little). One of the things that has made me love this series so much is Grant’s ability to blur the line between human and tapeworm – the tapeworms are not presented as the “bad guys,” as such – at least not uniformly. Both humans and tapeworms make questionable choices, do awful things. We are given multiple perspectives and in the middle is Sal, who is torn between her fellow chimera and the humans she loves.

Being a monster is not the same as being a bad person. It just means you’re willing to eat the world if that’s what you have to do to keep yourself alive.

Moreover, as disgusting as I find the idea of a tapeworm crawling around my insides, I really came to care for Sal, Adam, and Tansy. I feared for their lives and hoped that they’d all survive against the odds – particularly with Tansy. After the events of Symbiont, Tansy appeared basically in name only in Chimera (she was the tapeworm equivalent of comatose), and I missed her dearly.The only character I didn’t really come to feel anything for was Juniper – I understand why she was created, and what she represented for Sal; ultimately she didn’t add anything to the story for me because we spent so little page time with her. Also, I’m not sure if this is a problem that any other readers had during the series, but Dr. Cale strongly reminded me of Dr. Abbey from Newsflesh, and I found myself conflating the two, pretty much. There were also a few plot points that were introduced, but weren’t addressed or resolved satisfactorily.

Grant raised the stakes for her characters in Chimera – I was never certain that Sherman would be defeated or that Sal and her family would make it out unscathed. I felt Sal’s fear, her hope, and her desperation. For the first time in this series, Sal is actively making choices (and recruits others into helping her) rather than letting things happen to her.
Was this book a perfect book? No, but Grant’s abilities as a story-teller made me enjoy this book so much I was able to overlook the problems I had with it. I loved being a part of this world, and I hope Grant revisits it in the future (with a book about Tansy or Fishy, please).

★★★★★

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

 

Reread 2015

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
First Published: 1847
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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 first read Wuthering Heights when I was in high school, I think when I was fifteen. I remember that I didn’t like it very much, mostly because I didn’t understand it and it completely went over my head. I was expecting it to be romantic… which this novel is most definitely not. The fact that my knowledge of classic literature was also limited to Jane Austen probably also affected how much I originally liked the novel. I later picked it up again while at university, and with a few more years (and a greater understanding of literature) behind me, I found that I enjoyed it a lot more the second time around. While Wuthering Heights isn’t my favourite Brontë book, it is one that I have reread a few times already.

Wuthering Heights was Brain Soup Goes Gilmore’s pick for this month – or rather, October & November. Some questions that I kept in mind while reading for discussion were:

  • Is this a love story?
  • What are the motivations behind the actions of Cathy, Heathcliff, etc.? Does it make their actions more understandable?

Wuthering Heights is a book that is hard to forget. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. The thing that strikes me the most about Wuthering Heights is how difficult it is to read. Cathy and Heathcliff are incredibly unlikeable. When this book was first published, it was pretty much universally panned because of how awful Cathy and Heathcliff are, so it is interesting that Brontë chose to make her protagonists as repugnant as they are.

This book is emotionally exhausting. Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship is destructive, possessive, and ultimately cruel; based not in passion but hatred. Cathy famously exclaims,

I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.

This is somewhat accurate. Both characters are selfish, violent, and conniving people who have both had their fair share of abuse and feel no qualms about abusing those they deem beneath them. Thus, they are able to make both themselves and everyone around them incredibly miserable – even after their deaths. This is perhaps no surprise, because all these characters live in an isolated environment from which they cannot escape.

Cathy and Heathcliff do not need to be present for their influence over the other characters to be felt. The children of this novel – Cathy (II), Linton, and Hareton – are forced to suffer for the transgressions of their parents and must find ways to make amends for them, despite not one of them having the full story.

Is this book a perfect book? No. The framing device within a framing device? It’s totally awkward. I’m sure Brontë could have found a better way to tell this story than have Nelly write a letter explaining the events that Lockwood later writes down in his diary. The layers of perspective meant that it was often difficult to figure out who was telling the story. But I’m able to overlook the problematic elements of this novel because it’s an example of Gothic fiction done right. It has it all: revenge, ghosts, mysterious disappearances, the moors… it’s so atmospheric and so well-done that you can’t help but appreciate why it’s considered to be one of the finest pieces of British literature.

 

 ★★★★☆

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.