Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

This book was recommended to me by my friend Sophie, and it’s one I’ve wanted to read for years. One of my favourite books of all time is Jane Eyre, so naturally I wanted to read this one by another Bronte sister. I also visited the setting of Wuthering Heights years ago, and have wanted to read it more since. I was warned by Sophie that this one isn’t narrated by the person you would expect, and is actually told by a housekeeper to the master of the house, telling the story of Wuthering Heights, which is actually the neighbour’s house.

I definitely have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with not only these characters, but the writing and book in general. I found this such an rollercoaster, not in an emotional sense but more in the sense of finding some of this book highly enjoyable and some of it really difficult to take in and focus on. I read this in audiobook format, and I did really like the narration of it. I just found it so strange that I found some parts 5 stars and other parts so much lower.

He’s more myself than I am.

I found the start of this book really enjoyable, and I loved the Gothic aspects of it. I found throughout this book, the Gothic parts really drew me in and had such an amazing atmosphere. The atmosphere came partly from the setting of the Yorkshire moors, which I adored. However, I found some of the parts of this story difficult to read (or listen to) and I just couldn’t really focus on the story. This book follows a very long time span, and multiple character’s in the same families, and are often referred to by their family names. I actually looked up a character map for this one just to make sure I was following the right people.

I did enjoy the writing, I found it quite accessible and utterly charming, which was a nice surprise. I also feel like reading classic books on audio is something I have been drawn towards recently and is becoming a kind of tradition for me. However, I definitely feel like this book would have been much more enjoyable if it had been told by one of the main characters, not a side character relaying the story years after it happened.

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.

Overall, I feel very torn about this one and my feelings on it. I would love to watch a movie adaptation soon to get this story a little straighter in my head and see it from a different perspective!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

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When Father goes away with two strangers one evening, the lives of Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are shattered. They and their mother have to move from their comfortable London home to go and live in a simple country cottage, where Mother writes books to make ends meet. However, they soon come to love the railway that runs near their cottage, and they make a habit of waving to the Old Gentleman who rides on it. They befriend the porter, Perks, and through him learn railway lore and much else. They have many adventures, and when they save a train from disaster, they are helped by the Old Gentleman to solve the mystery of their father’s disappearance, and the family is happily reunited.

I decided to read this one on audiobook while driving, walking and running around the British countryside this past weekend, and honestly it was just perfect. I could not recommend a better way to read this, but enjoying the very countryside talked about in this book and glimpsing railways over the hills and through the trees. This is also a super short audiobook, clocking in at around 5 hours and it was just perfect for a big weekend of travelling!

This one was actually a major surprise for me, especially as I have been not enjoying classics quite as much recently. This was recommended to me to me by Alex, who loves this book, and trust me she has some great classic recommendations! I read The Secret Garden a couple of months ago on her recommendation, and I loved that one too. However, I actually ended up enjoying The Railway Children just a little bit more!

I think everyone in the world is friends

This one follows a family as they move to a small house in the British countryside due to mysterious circumstances leaving them without their father. This is told from the perspective of the three children of the family as they explore the countryside and get to know the people in the nearby village and on the railway. I loved reading about the children, and I imagine I would have absolutely adored this as a child. The children also don’t know why they’ve moved or their father has not moved with them, leaving a mystery aspect surrounding this book that I really didn’t expect to have!

The children also have some really interesting discussions throughout this book, including about gender identity, race, friendship, family, wealth and status. Some of these discussions felt very ahead of their time and I was surprised they came up at all. Alongside their loving and caring mother, these children learn the importance of looking out for one another through tough times and helping those around you despite their backgrounds.

if you can only get them to see you don’t want to be un-friends.

Overall, this was such a pleasant surprise. I loved the feeling of adventure throughout, and the mischief these kids got up to was so fun to read about! The relationships and friendships were so heartwarming and beautiful, and left me with goosebumps when I finished this book.

★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

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The Jungle Book introduces Mowgli, the human foundling adopted by a family of wolves. It tells of the enmity between him and the tiger Shere Khan, who killed Mowgli’s parents, and of the friendship between the man-cub and Bagheera, the black panther, and Baloo, the sleepy brown bear, who instructs Mowgli in the Laws of the Jungle.

I listened to the audiobook of this one and I absolutely loved it. The one I listened to was narrated by Gildart Jackson, who was brilliant. I’m so glad I listened to the audiobook rather than reading this one as honestly, I feel like it really elevated the story. Jackson breathed so much life into this and really made this such a vibrant story.

This book felt very nostalgic for me, not because of this being a reread (it wasn’t), but I did watch the Disney adaptation as a child and again more recently. The first half of this book specifically felt very nostalgic, especially because of the story following Mowgli and the surrounding characters. The most surprising thing I found in this story was how it only seemed to follow Mowgli for around half of the book. The remainder follows other characters and animals throughout the story, which felt a little strange and jarring for me.

My heart is heavy

Having read other reviews of this book, I have since discovered that this is actually a collection of 7 stories and 7 songs. The only problem with listening to the audiobook is that I didn’t necessarily have a visual distinction between these sections, which meant I felt so thrown by whenever the story changed and began to follow other characters. The other annoying thing about this is how the audiobook chapters stopped randomly in the physical book chapters which meant I found it hard to follow where I was in the print version! Thanks to the Disney adaptation, I think of this story as following mostly or only Mowgli, and I found I didn’t enjoy the other stories as much as I wanted to.

I loved the jungle setting of this and as I mentioned, I loved how much the narration brought this to life and I could really clearly picture the surroundings of the jungle. I found this entire story entertaining and very lyrical, especially as it is interspersed with poem/song. Some of these stories were touching, some were fun, some I just didn’t connect to at all. It was such a mixture!

with the things I do not understand.

Overall, I did enjoy this but not quite as much as I expected and I did find it very up and down. However, I really enjoyed the experience of the audiobook and I would recommend it if you’re going to read this one!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

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Anne Shirley is an eleven-year-old orphan who has hung on determinedly to an optimistic spirit and a wildly creative imagination through her early deprivations. She erupts into the lives of aging brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a girl instead of the boy they had sent for. Thus begins a story of transformation for all three; indeed the whole rural community of Avonlea comes under Anne’s influence in some way. We see her grow from a girl to a young woman of sixteen, making her mistakes, and not always learning from them. Intelligent, hot-headed as her own red hair, unwilling to take a moral truth as read until she works it out for herself, she must also face grief and loss and learn the true meaning of love. 

I’ve been reading a classic per month this year from my Wordsworth collectors set, specifically recommended to me by my friends. My friend Harri recommended Anne of Green Gables and I’m so glad I picked this up, it was so entertaining! This felt so reminiscent of My Naughty Little Sister, which was a book I loved when I was little about a child who kept getting into mischief. I never read Anne as a child but I very much enjoyed it now!

I listened to the audiobook of Anne which I really enjoyed. The narrator (Barbara Caruso) felt perfect for the role and really brought the characters to life. It felt like one of the most effortless and easy to listen to audiobooks I’ve read so far. Anne was such a lovely main character who was so lively and wonderful. Her vivid imagination brought the scenery to life and I loved the surroundings of Green Gables. I could picture the island so perfectly because of her chatter!

I’m so glad I live in a world 

This book is also just so entertaining from beginning to end. Anne is always getting up to something and I couldn’t wait to hear what the next bit of mischief would be. Her friends and surrounding characters were also a joy to read about and I love how she had a group of friends at school. On the subject of characters, I also really liked how Anne changed those around her and they grew with her. I especially loved the character of Marilla, and how she softened throughout the book because of having Anne around. It warmed my heart so much to see her character develop! I also felt like everybody had their own distinct characteristics and all brought something to the book.

Anne was such a delightful character and she was such a strong girl who developed into a strong and independent woman. I love how this book shows strong female characters and gives them the option of living on their own and without the support of a husband, which did surprise me considering the age of the book.

where there are Octobers.

I wish I’d read this book when I was little, as I really think this one would have been a favourite for me as a kid. It’s so entertaining and witty, but also heartfelt and really emotional towards the end. It is also one I’d highly recommend as an audiobook as I really enjoyed it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

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The magical Peter Pan comes to the night nursery of the Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael. He teaches them to fly, then takes them through the sky to Never-Never Land, where they find Red Indians, Wolves, Mermaids and… Pirates.
The leader of the pirates is the sinister Captain Hook. His hand was bitten off by a crocodile, who, as Captain Hook explains ‘liked me arm so much that he has followed me ever since, licking his lips for the rest of me’. After lots of adventures, the story reaches its exciting climax as Peter, Wendy and the children do battle with Captain Hook and his band.

This was so much weirder than I expected. I’ve only ever seen the Disney animation of this story and it’s been a long time since I last watched it – I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the whole thing all the way through. I also saw a pantomime version years ago, which I barely remember. But I’m glad I went into this story with some knowledge, even if it was such a little bit. I found going into this story was like jumping into the deep end of a pool, because I felt so confused.

I just felt like there was absolutely no introduction to any of the characters or the story, and I found it difficult to follow what was happening. I was relying so much on my previous knowledge of the story from other mediums, which also felt like a very odd experience. I’m not exactly sure why I felt like this was not explained at all, but it disappointed me a lot and wasn’t a great start to the story.

Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.

I also felt like this story was like reading a hallucination. It reminded me a lot more of Alice in Wonderland than I expected in the reading style, because nothing felt real or tangible. It all felt a bit like reading a really wacky dream, and I found it hard to connect to the story because of it. My favourite part of this story was the setting of Never-Never Land, which definitely portrayed a mystical landscape with a lot of intricate detail. I also loved the whole concept of the book itself, and the discussions of childhood/adulthood.

I liked the characters in some ways, but there was so many of them and I quickly lost track. Tinkerbell was one of my favourites, with her cheeky sassiness. I also liked and related to Wendy and her mothering instincts towards the other characters, and the scenes in their house were some of my favourites in the book. The sense of adventure is clear throughout the book and I can see how this book is brilliant for children, who are more likely to be able to visualise this story and have a more vivid imagination than me!

You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.

Overall, I can see the enjoyment in this story and I feel like I might reread it in the future and see if I can find a stronger connection to it. I’m also definitely tempted to re-watch the Disney animation now I’ve read the original story. It’s just a shame that I felt such a disconnect to the story and it did hinder my enjoyment of it a lot.

★★★
2.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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Little Women is one of the best-loved children’s stories of all time, based on the author’s own youthful experiences. It describes the family of the four March sisters living in a small New England community. Meg, the eldest, is pretty and wishes to be a lady; Jo, at fifteen is ungainly and unconventional with an ambition to be an author; Beth is a delicate child of thirteen with a taste for music and Amy is a blonde beauty of twelve. The story of their domestic adventures, their attempts to increase the family income, their friendship with the neighbouring Laurence family, and their later love affairs remains as fresh and beguiling as ever.

This is a story that has oddly been with me throughout my life, in one way or another. When I was a child, I picked this book up after reading Jane Eyre and loving it immensely. However, I couldn’t get into it and put it back down for another time. Likely over 10 years later, that other time finally arrived.

New Year’s Day 2020: me and my boyfriend decided to go to the cinema to see the brand new adaptation (I posted about it here!). It was packed, almost every seat taken, and we ended up craning our necks on the front row. Despite that, I fell in love with that film so deeply that I saw it another three times afterwards, also in cinema. Just over a year after that, I finally pick up my new Wordsworth classic edition, and fall in love all over again.

Take some books and read; that’s an immense help;

I don’t have sisters, but I imagine that this book portrays how having sisters really feels. The chaotic, arresting energy these girls have between them is addictive. I never fail to feel their undying love for one another and those around them, I just adore how the friendships and relationships really jump off the pages. The girls capture my heart again and again, with their bravery, self awareness, caring natures and childlike abandonment.

This book truly feels like a comfort read, and diving into it’s pages is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, or sinking into a warm bath. It is like that first sip of tea, when you can feel the warmth spreading around your body. I will never understand just how it works, how stories such as these can have such a calming and nurturing tone to them, but it feels like a gentle, comforting kind of magic.

and books are always good company if you have the right sort.

Without spoiling this book, I did feel very surprised at the ending, and it is something I will warn you of. Having known the story of Little Women for a long time, and having watched the 2019 movie adaptation, I knew what I was going into and fully expected to have a good cry. However, the original publication was actually in two parts – Little Women and Good Wives, with the second book being set 3 years after the original story. Now, it is highly common to find most editions of Little Women contain both halves of the story, but as it happens, mine did not. I imagine this is due to my edition being a children’s classic, and I would definitely recommend checking your copy if you are looking to read both books in one! Luckily, my boyfriend has a copy that includes both books, so I will definitely be carrying on fairly soon.

★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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