Tag Archives: Fiction

Wuthering Heights Wednesday: April 28, 2010 – Week 4

Welcome to Wuthering Heights Wednesday! Softdrink is hosting a read-along of this classic novel, and we’re reading (and posting about) 3 chapters a week.

Chapters 10 through 12

My Synopsis:

What a tangled web they weave…

The chapter opens with Lockwood sick in bed. Remember that jaunt he took through the frozen woods? Well, it has caught up with him. From his sick-bed, he asks Mrs. Dean to continue the tale of Heathcliff and company…and so she does.

As we mentioned in last week’s reading, Cathy has married Edgar and moved to Thrushcross Grange. Mrs. Dean is surprised at how agreeable Cathy is, but after thinking about it a bit, she realizes that it’s easy to be agreeable when there is no conflict to speak of. Edgar and his sister, Isabella bend to her every whim and in so doing, reap the rewards of a happy Cathy.

BUT…

After being away for three years, Heathcliff returns which pretty much rocks Cathy’s world. Cathy is so ecstatic to see him that it grates on Edgar’s last nerve. Cathy tries to persuade Edgar to accept Heathcliff as a friend so that all may be well at Thrushcross Grange. Edgar doesn’t accept him per se, but sort of turns a blind eye to him for a bit, which of course is a huge mistake.

In the meantime, it comes to Cathy’s attention that Isabella is smitten with Heathcliff. She finds this laughable at best and says so in front of Heathcliff and Isabella. Of course, Isabella is humiliated that Cathy shared her feelings in that way and attempts to grab Cathy. Cathy turns it around and makes Isabella out to be a monster in disguise. Heathcliff finds it all very amusing. Men.

I’ve forgotten why, but Mrs. Dean visits Wuthering Heights and manages to get hit in the head with a rock (she’s okay though). Who do you think threw it? Hareton! The kid that she practically raised.  He has no recollection of her and curses her existence. Turns out, that our dear Heathcliff has been coaching the young lad in an attempt to turn him against his own father. I suppose he IS exacting his revenge upon Hindley but not in an obvious way because even Hindley has allowed him to stay at Wuthering Heights. When Heathcliff sees Mrs. Dean lurking about the premises, he comes out to talk to her but she runs back to Thrushcross Grange.

This is where it gets good so stay with me.

Heathcliff visits Thrushcross Grange and kisses Isabella! Cathy becomes aware of it and flies into a terrible fit. Edgar stumbles upon the two of them in the kitchen and Cathy locks the door and throws the key into the fire so the two of them can go at it. Edgar sort of collapses into a chair and Heathcliff realizes what a wimp he is and tells Cathy that he will never understand how she could have chosen Edgar over him. Surprise! Edgar jumps up and pops Heathcliff right in the throat and then runs out the back door.

When Edgar returns, he demands that Cathy choose between him and Heathcliff. Cathy feigns illness by collapsing and rolling her eyes into the back of her head which frightens Edgar but Mrs. Dean tells him that she is play acting. Cathy, upon hearing that the jig is up, jumps up and runs off to her room where she decides to starve herself. Take that! (insert foot stomping here).

After this bit of theatrics, Edgar tells Isabella that if she chooses to spend her life with Heathcliff, then she can consider their familial relationship over. Blood is thicker than water and all that. Right?

So what does Isabella do? She runs away with Heathcliff and Cathy loses her mind.

My Thoughts:

When I tell people that I am reading Wuthering Heights, there is an audible groan. This, I cannot understand. I am loving it but I have to tell you, half the fun is writing about it. These people are not right.

I am loving the tension between Cathy and Heathcliff. He knows how to push all of her buttons and running off with Isabella has sent Cathy into a tizzy that she may never recover from. It was implied that he is interested in Isabella for her money as she is her brother’s heir, but Heathcliff has his own money now and no one seems to know how he came upon it.

Heathcliff was gone for three years. A lot could have happened in three years. Wonder how long it will take for him to return this time.

Reading along:

Review: The Queen of Palmyra

The Queen of Palmyra
Minrose Gwin
HarperCollins
April 27, 2010
416pp

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

In the turbulent southern summer of 1963, Millwood’s white population steers clear of “Shake Rag,” the black section of town. Young Florence Forrest is one of the few who crosses the line. The daughter of a burial insurance salesman with dark secrets and the town’s “cake lady,” whose backcountry bootleg runs lead further and further away from a brutal marriage, Florence attaches herself to her grandparents’ longtime maid, Zenie Johnson. Named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, Zenie treats the unwanted girl as just another chore, while telling her stories of the legendary queen’s courage and cunning.

The more time Florence spends in Shake Rag, the more she recognizes how completely race divides her town, and her story, far from ordinary, bears witness to the truth and brutality of her times—a truth brought to a shattering conclusion when Zenie’s vibrant college-student niece, Eva Greene, arrives that fateful Mississippi summer.

The Short of It:

I loved this book. The story deals with some heavy themes but as it unfolds, it sort of falls gently upon your shoulders and really allows you to experience it and take it in.

The Rest of It:

To be clear, I really loved this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened its pages but what I found inside was a real treat. Sometimes you fall in love with a book because of the writing. Other times, you fall in love with the characters or while reading it, you just find yourself lingering over every piece of it because it just “fits” you. Although the writing is lovely, what I really enjoyed about this book was that it was filled with wonderful characters and it just seemed to fit me as a reader. It was a good mix of childhood adolescence and larger adult themes.

The story is told from Florence’s point-of-view and at the age of eleven, she pretty much tells it like it is. She’s wiser than her years in many ways but at times her innocence comes through and reminds you that she is in fact, just a child. As tensions rise and race continues to divide the community, she struggles to find her place and is sort of swept away with the tide, bouncing from one household to another and not really fitting in anywhere. As rough as this period is for her, I found myself rooting for her, knowing that she’d come out of it okay. Maybe not perfect, but okay and if you’ve had a rough childhood, okay is pretty darn good.

Although I found myself relating to Florence the most, I enjoyed many of the other characters even though I never really liked them. In other words, these people would not be my friends, but the author makes them fleshy and whole and spends a great deal of time giving us all of the wonderful details that make them who they are. The smells, the oily sheen of hair oil upon a head, the way they carry themselves, etc. These characters don’t have to say much. There are moments when all they do is sit or stare but somehow the author conveys their thoughts through their posture and mannerisms. It takes skill for an author to speak volumes while the character remains mute.

When Eva Greene arrives, it’s as if the door to Florence’s world suddenly opens. Being around the same people day in and day out, you tend to get used to them but with Eva, Florence begins to notice things that she didn’t notice before and that’s when she begins to grow as a character. The presence of Eva made all things real.

If I had to compare this to another book I’d have to say that it did remind me of The Help, but just a little bit. The help (Zenie and Ray) do play a key role in this story, but the relationships are not as endearing as the ones in The Help. That’s not to say that weren’t as powerful. The relationships in The Queen of Palmyra were quite powerful but a bit more subtle.  As for Florence, she has the same feel as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird but she also reminds me of Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She definitely has her own voice though.

I could go on and on about this novel. If you pick it up (and I really hope you do) let me know so we can chat about it. This is one of those books that you want to discuss but so far I’ve only come across one other person who’s read it.

Minrose Gwin will be talking with Book Club Girl on May 17th. Click here for details!

The Queen of Palmyra comes out on April 27, 2010.

Source: This ARC was provided by HarperCollins.