22 February 2012

Review 16: Wuthering Heights - The Graphic Novel by Emily Bronte

"When Mr. Lockwood rents a country house from Mr. Heathcliff, he soon learns all about his landlord's turbulent history, including his undying love for Catherine Earnshaw, who haunts Heathcliff from beyond the grave, and his vengeful tyrannies against anyone who dares stand in his way. Can Lockwood stop himself from being dragged into Heathcliff's violent world?"

This 'QuickText' series of graphic novels is designed to make classic novels more accessible to younger readers and Wuthering Heights is on the shortlist for the Stan Lee Excelsior Award (www.excelsioraward.co.uk) which I am reading and voting for with some of my students. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the original novel, I just find it so depressing and I find Cathy and Heathcliff just too cruel. For teenagers though, this offers a great way to get a hold of the plot and keep track of the complicated family relationships with moody watercolour artwork that suits the tone of the story.

First Line: '1801 - Mr. Lockwood arrives...'

Despite being a 'Quick Text' graphic novel version of the novel, it is still a fairly weighty book and still requires a level of time and concentration to read it and follow all the complicated family relationships. The language itself is much easier to understand though of course and, on the whole, the writers have done a good job of condensing the story and the tone of the story into graphic novel form. One thing that really helps with the tone is the beautiful watercolour artwork. Many of the smaller, more detailed scenes come across a little messy but the big, full page illustrations are wonderful and really capture the atmosphere of the novel.

As I mentioned in the summary, I'm not a big fan of the story of Wuthering Heights as I just find the characters so awful that I just don't care what happens to them. I'm all for flawed heroes and heroines but I just never bought into Heathcliff as a big romantic hero the way a lot of people do. I'm not sure if it was just the ages I read the novel at or my personality but I find him offputting in the original novel, and just as awful in the graphic novel. Equally, I intensely dislike Cathy and find her manipulations horrendous. I realise the characters are not supposed to be your normal, good hearted people but for me it's just too much cruelty and heartbreak. If only Heathcliff and Cathy would of run away into the moors by themselves and let everyone else get on with their lives. So as you might expect, the story was still not my favourite, but at least it all happens a lot quicker in a graphic novel. I do think the passion was dialled down a little, either for a younger audience or because they just failed to get that level of emotion across in the simplified words. Whilst I disliked Heathcliff and Cathy in the original, I did feel that level of all consuming passion that they felt for each other which I don't think comes across as strongly here, it's less clear where that depth of feeling has come from.

An excellent addition of the graphic novel is that a portrait gallery at the start with pictures of all the characters and briefly how they are all linked which helps with working out who everyone is for teenage readers. Unfortunately a lot of the male characters are all drawn very similarly which seems like a wasted opportunity to help children enjoy the story and not have to worry about which dark, sad/angry man was which.

This is a great retelling of Wuthering Heights that has gone down well with my teenage readers and is an accessibly way to introduce children to the complex world of Wuthering Heights. The elements that I didn't enjoy were the elements that I didn't enjoy of the original either which was obviously somewhat expected. I would recommend this to reader who enjoyed the original and fancied a new visit to it, although there is the obvious danger to any pictures ardent fans have built up in their minds.


  1. I'd love to check this out, but I'm not sure if I'll buy it.

  2. I wouldn't recommend buying it unless you're a huge fan of the original novel but it's definitely worth a read if you see it in a library.