Nelly Dean by Alison Case

nelly

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

This book is billed as a reimagining of Wuthering Heights, but really it is an expansion of the classic love story. I wouldn’t recommend it for readers who have not read Wuthering Heights, but if you have read it and just don’t remember it too well, here are the broad strokes. The Earnshaw family and the Linton family are well-to-do farming neighbors on the Yorkshire moors in early 19th-century England. Mr. Earnshaw adopts a foundling and names him Heathcliff. Heathcliff and the Earnshaws’ daughter, Catherine, fall in love, but family tensions keep them apart. Heathcliff and Catherine both marry members of the Linton family, everyone is unhappy, and pretty much everyone dies.

Wuthering Heights is narrated by the Earnshaws’ longtime housekeeper, Nelly Dean, but the reader never learns much about her. Case’s new book features Nelly Dean as both the narrator and the main character. Nelly’s story is compelling, twining through the holes in the original novel and fleshing out both her character and that of Hindley Earnshaw, Catherine’s older brother and the main antagonist in Wuthering Heights. I can’t say that I didn’t see the twist coming, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

My favorite thing about Nelly Dean is the language. The author does a beautiful job of writing in the language of the times–no surprise, since she is a scholar of 19th-century British literature. It feels like this book could have come out as a sequel to Wuthering Heights in 1850, rather than 2015, which lends it an authenticity often lacking in other “reimaginings” of classic works.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC CASE)

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