One thing I don’t do here is literary criticism. Either you’ve read the book already and know what you think about it and won’t care what I think, or you haven’t and still won’t care. But (you knew there was going to be a “but”, didn’t you?) but tonight I’m going to rant about Wuthering Heights which was our book group’s Christmas read.
Most people there enjoyed it.
I hated it from the snowstorm in the beginning right through to the rainstorm at the end, though I’ll admit to being amused by the detail of Heaton (or was it Hindley) hanging a litter of puppies in the door frame which Isobella has to rush past when she escapes. Yes, we know that everyone in the book is nasty, brutish and short. Enough already. No need to labour the point.
Wuthering Heights is a load of adolescent tosh which confuses self-indulgent bullying for passion. It’s not big. It’s not clever. It’s not grown-up. It’s an early 19th century version of Big Brother. As Dorothy Parker said of another book entirely “this is not a book to be tossed aside lightly, it’s a book to be hurled away with great force”.
Anyway, when I asked myself whether or not I thought it was credible that an entire cast of characters should be so unremittingly selfish and unpleasant I realised that you could set the whole thing on a sink estate or a trailer park, add in a cast of social workers and probation officers, tell exactly the same story, and it would be entirely credible. Which leads to the question of why I assumed that the West Riding of Yorkshire wouldn’t be ASBO-central among the landed gentry of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. I guess Miss Austen has a lot to answer for, we most certainly aren’t in Hampshire any more.
Amusingly, MTV made the first half into a movie in 2003 with a contemporary setting, with the following viewer review: “the film … seriously lacks any warmth or emotion … If you’re a fan of disjointed and heartless romantic dramas … then by all means rent this movie.”
Sounds like a faithful adaptation to me.