Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Nelly Dean: A Return to Withering Heights by Alison Case
Published by Pegasus February 2016
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley
A novel that re-imagines life at Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ loyal servant, Nelly Dean.Young Nelly Dean has been Hindley’s closest companion for as long as she can remember, living freely at the great house, Wuthering Heights. But when the benevolence of the master brings a wild child into the house, Nelly learns she must follow in her mother’s footsteps, be called "servant" and give herself over completely to the demands of the Earnshaw family.But Nelly is not the only one who finds her life disrupted by this strange newcomer. As death, illness, and passion sweep through the house, Nelly suffers heartache and betrayals at the hands of those she cherishes most, tempting her to leave it all behind. But when a new heir is born, a reign of violence begins that will test even Nelly’s formidable spirit as she finds out what it is to know true sacrifice. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.
I tend to have mixed feelings about books spun off of classics (as I do with fanfic, as well) and I tend to stay away from them. I know I miss some fine books because of this. I know this because many of the ones I have chosen to read, I've enjoyed a lot (The Flight of Gemma Hardy, for example). Add Nelly Dean to that list.
I've read Withering Heights twice and I must say that all I can really remember about Nelly Dean is that she was a servant at Wuthering Heights who told the story of Heathcliff and Cathy to Mr. Lockwood. She is largely regarded as an unreliable narrator, given her closeness with the families. That is Case's jumping off point for Nelly Dean.
Nelly is, again, telling her story to Mr. Lockwood, this time in writing. Up front she admits that she previously told him the story she wanted to tell him. Now, she says, she wants to give him the full story, the story of how she came to be so deeply involved with the Earnshaws and, later, the Lintons. Of why she was willing to stay with the Earnshaws despite the violence, poverty, and cruelty. In Nelly Dean, Nelly is the focus of the very story she previously told Lockwood. While Nelly was a relatively minor characters, although crucial, in Wuthering Heights, she was witness to most of what she recounted. Making her the center of the same story in this book was a interesting and effective choice by Case. It allows her to explain Nelly's motivations and also allows her to look more deeply into the circumstances, miscommunications, and tragedies that resulted in the events of Wuthering Heights.
Periodically, I felt like the book dragged a bit but, overall, I enjoyed Nelly Dean quite a bit. And understood all of the characters a better. I've never much cared for Wuthering Heights; maybe if I gave it a third chance with the background Case offers, I might appreciate it more.