For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m reviewing another of Sue Barnard’s novels, Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered?, which I announced prior to its release on Monday, July 30th, alongside my review of Sue’s last novel, Never on Saturday.
This post is somewhat delayed due to MS depression zapping my spoons.
Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered?
Sue Barnard (Goodreads Author)
“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…”
Cathy’s immortal words from Wuthering Heights change Heathcliff’s life. At just seventeen years of age, heartbroken and penniless, he runs away to face an unknown future.
Three years later, he returns – much improved in manners, appearance and prosperity.
But what happened during those years? How could he have made his fortune, from nothing? Who might his parents have been? And what fate turned him into literature’s most famous anti-hero?
For almost two centuries, these questions have remained unanswered. Until now…
Review 4.4 stars
I always enjoy Sue Barnard’s novels so was looking forward to this one – and I wasn’t disappointed.
Although I read some long summaries of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, to familiarise myself, I regretted that I had never read the book – my excuse being that it was not a set book at school, unlike Jane Austen’s and Joseph Conrad’s works. (An omission that I intend to rectify). However, a prior knowledge isn’t required as many of the incidents are recounted, albeit with the missing three years at their heart.
The style of narration adopted seems to echo that used by Emily Bronte, but with Sue Barnard’s style woven in to make this a re-telling. Each scene is told from alternating perspectives, with the narrator’s name before each one.
For those three years of Heathcliff’s life that Emily Bronte left unexplained, Sue Barnard has done some interesting research and come up with plausible reasons, not only for his wealth and prosperity but also for his appearances and mannerisms. But I won’t let on about that time, just believe me when I say that the explanation works – as does some fascinating revelations at the end of the novel. Hidden secrets and devious research make for key threads.
Barnard makes good use of the historical setting for her re-telling, creating some new and memorable characters to fill those unexplained years. And the existing characters might be Bronte’s but they are fleshed out, although I didn’t understand some of their oddities. Heathcliff became clearer and darker than I had envisaged him – no thanks to Hollywood. He comes over as both tragic as he spirals out of control and depressing in his failure to see reason. But isn’t that the way with anti-heroes?
So, this wasn’t a smooth read, nor my favourite Barnard book, but I still recommend this novel.
Story – four stars
Setting/World-building – four stars
Authenticity – five stars
Characters – four stars
Structure – four stars
Readability – five stars
Editing – five stars
I’d often wondered about the three years.
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And now we have the answer – well, one answer. Thanks for the comment, Adelaide.
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