In the (Wuthering) Heights

Title: Catherine Catherine

Author: April Lindner

Publisher & Release Date: Poppy, Jan 2013

The Hook: Retellings of classics always intrigue me, and I enjoyed “Jane” which came out a few years ago.

The Lowdown: From Amazon: “…Seventeen-year-old Chelsea learns through a hidden letter that her mother did not die when she was three, but ran away to New York. Chelsea does the same to try to rediscover Catherine and see if she is still alive.”

Overall Impressions: Lindner sets up the classic story with a modern twist: in her search for her mother Catherine, Chelsea finds Hence (a version of Heathcliff) as the owner of her grandfather’s punk venue; her mother’s diary; and a cute musician that her father most likely won’t approve of. Between one major plot change and the layered story-telling, the story will still have some surprises for readers familiar with Wuthering Heights. (For those who haven’t read the original: it’s gloomy and tragic and probably uses the word “woe” at least twice.)

Chelsea herself is a determined sleuth, tracking down her mother’s history and friends and pestering Hence until more of the mystery is revealed. It’s like she’s unfinished, and knowing more about her mother will complete a part of her that she didn’t know was missing until she discovered the letter. Hence is grim, hard to like, and hostile toward any idea that Catherine might be alive – because her absence would mean a deeper rejection than mere death. You can see how his passion is captivating. Chelsea’s father is well-meaning in a vague and ineffectual way, concealing Catherine’s last letters to Chelsea and dropping his missing wife from their lives. Chelsea’s romantic interest, Cooper, is cute, though very secondary to Hence and Catherine’s story.

The Highs: The structure, which could have been contrived and awful and instead flowed very nicely between the past and present. The undercurrent of romance with Chelsea and Cooper; a nice touch but not a distraction from the central mystery. The believable tension between Hence, Catherine, and her brother Quentin, in a world with less class restrictions than Bronte’s time but still many sources of friction.

Buzzkills: There were a couple of scenes that dipped a toe briefly into the gothic, an obvious nod to the original – but a mismatch in tone, I thought. The story itself is rife with misunderstandings, passion, and anger, but it’s a very human (rather than supernatural) tragedy. (Disclaimer: I have never really studied Wuthering Heights, so I would be willing to be persuaded.)

This is a total side note, but the proper names between the retelling and the original gave me hives while trying to write this review – I had to work to keep Lindner/Linton/Quentin/Hareton/Hindley/Hence straight.

The Source: My public library

Disclaimer: No chocolate or punk LPs were provided by the publisher for this review.

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