It’s pretty well-documented at this point that I have issues with Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. All of said issues boil down to this: while I can appreciate her ability to both spin a yarn and spin it well, my feelings about the characters range from semi-distaste to full-on loathing, which makes for a less-than pleasant reading experience. Disliking her characters, though, doesn’t prevent me from respecting their positions as literary icons—and so, I always find myself drawn to reimaginings, reinterpretations and/or parodies of them. Sometimes they work for me (see Wuthering High and The Well of Lost Plots), and sometimes not so much (see The Heights), but I can never pass them up.
In Catherine, 17-year-old Chelsea Price finds out that her father has been lying to her for over a decade: her mother didn’t die 14 years ago, but deserted the family and ran away. So she throws a few things in a backpack and hops on a bus headed to New York City, to a club called The Underground, and to Hence—His answer came through gritted teeth, like he’d been asked that question a thousand times. “Hence. Like therefore.”**—the gruff, angry man who owns it.
In Wuthering Heights, Catherine Earnshaw’s fate is never a mystery—she dies in childbirth—while in Catherine, there’s a distinct (though unlikely) chance that she’s out there, somewhere...if she is, Chelsea is determined to find her. Both heroines tell their stories directly to the reader—Catherine through her teenage journal, and Chelsea through her narration—and seeing their similarities, years apart, is almost as enjoyable as it is to see their wildly differing thoughts on Hence.
It’s not as atmospheric as Wuthering Heights—is anything?—but it’s got the same threads of star-crossed love, insanity, unfairness, classism and racism, and there are lots of plot parallels as well: Catherine’s journal, Heathcliff/Hence’s misunderstanding of a half-overheard conversation, his relationship with his adopted father and brother. As in Jane, Lindner changes the outer trappings of a familiar story while still preserving the bones and spirit of the original, and, also like Jane, it isn’t at all necessary to have read Brontë’s book to wholeheartedly enjoy this one.
*Well, it’s immensely enjoyable as long as you can get past the idea that as in the original, the Rochester character—who is a zillionaire rock star—secretly keeps his wife locked up in the attic. Which, in this day and age of tabloids and independent researchers and The Smoking Gun (not to mention cushy mental health facilities), is a huge stretch. See my original review for more on that.***
**I feel that if you’re going to go the mononymous route—and choose an adverb at that—that getting all irritated with people who Don’t Get It is completely ridiculous. But as that’s totally something I can imagine Heathcliff doing, it works.
***Some suspension of disbelief is necessary in Catherine, too: the ultimate solution to the mystery...well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but it’s pretty thin.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is probably curled up by the woodstove, reading
Author photo by Nick Belial