Tuesday, 29 September 2015
I like a big, fat book for autumn evenings, something to get lost in, a page-turner that's not too challenging after a wallow in Downton Abbey.
And although I don't normally care for sequels and prequels (unless they're as good as Longbourn, a rare exception), I did enjoy Nelly Dean, the housekeeper's tale that fills in the gaps in Wuthering Heights. (You really do need to read the original first, or you'll get your Cathies in a twist. The story takes the form of a letter from Nelly to the former tenant Mr Lockwood and as she has already told him the story of Cathy and Heathcliff and the other inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, she isn't repeating herself - so you do need to know who's who. Alison Case is a professor of literature and she's assuming you've done your homework!)
This is Nelly and Hindley's story - and Nelly leaves the torrid lovers to get on with it off-stage. (If you have ever felt impatient with grand passions on the moors, you might actually prefer this.)
Nelly is a battered child who comes to live at Wuthering Heights, sharing the childhood of the other children but not quite part of the family. It's ages since I last read WH; I'm sure I thought Nelly was boring, holding up the action when all I was interested in was smouldering passion. (It really is the perfect escapist novel for teenage girls.) But Nelly has her own secrets and passions ...
To be honest, you'll guess them well before the end but it's still an enjoyable read. I could have done with a whole lot less of the pages and pages of breast-feeding - but I'm not the maternal type. (Now I think of it, the only novel I can think of with so much action at the breast is Enid Bagnold's The Squire who was far too much of a Smug Sainted Mummy for me.)