Monday, August 19, 2013

Black Spring, by Alison Croggon: A Wuthering Heights a magical allusion? (#wordplay)

Black Spring
Alison Croggon
Candlewick Press, August 27th 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6009-3
ARC copy provided by Candlewick

In the rough northern territories, the rule of vendetta is the law, and the king and wizards share power over the peasants.  When a southern noble comes to stay to escape scandal and goes to greet his landlord, he unwittingly stumbles into a slightly more magical adaptation of Wuthering Heights.  His housekeeper reveals that she once worked in the household of Lina, a young witch.  Witches are marked for death by wizards under the laws of the north, but she is protected to by the noble status of her father, who is punished when a silent, stoic young boy is sent to be his ward.   Lina and the ward develop a tempestuous, dangerously passionate and desperate link in childhood that is tested when the bottom falls out and Lina’s father passes away, setting them on a course that may destroy their own lives and the lives of those of around them.  Told alternatively through the housekeeper, Lina’s journal, and the southern noble, Black Spring is a gothic, dark read for those who love Heathcliff and Catherine.  


I have to confess that Wuthering Heights is one of my least favorite books of all time.  I read it because I felt like I should, and mostly because I was kind of embarrassed to have never read it.  But I did not enjoy it, though I do enjoy other things Gothic old English stylz (that’s what they call it at Cambridge and Oxford, right?).  There is way, way, way, WAY, too much angst, and I work in a high school for crying out loud.  I mean…seriously.  Healthcliff sucks.  Catherine is straight crazy.  And they're mean!  They're so mean!  I seriously fail to see the romantic appeal.  It could have been written by a depressed fifteen year old girl with a really fabulous vocabulary.  I recognize this is not far from the truth.  Even though I love Jane Eyre, those Brontes needed some sunshine. I found not a single character in Wuthering Heights to be anything but of questionable and mostly poor moral character; there was no redeeming quality that made me forgive them.  They’re all terrible people, or so pitiable that you just…ugh.

 Anyways, I liked Black Spring better, only if because it’s a tenth of the length and much, much easier to get through.  You don’t get bogged down in the chest beating, brooding, storming around and scheming revenge.  I mean, you do.  But it’s quick where Wuthering Heights is not - Black Spring is way, way, WAY, shorter!  I realized in reading it that a lot of the allure in this story, and perhaps in Wuthering Heights itself, is that we are spectators in this intense, passionate, incredibly insane relationship.  We can only observe, never really understand.  We do not see it from their eyes, or experience what the players in said ill-fated relationship feel; the why of it is left to speculation, a gossip-lovers favorite activity.

However, I do have to say that I was led to believe this book would be FAR more about the magic and fantasy than about…well, about the angst.  It really is a Wuthering Heights adaptation backhandedly disguised as a book containing magical characters.  The magic is really…secondary.  It’s there, but barely touched upon, except for at climatic moments that really fail to matter in the big picture, frankly.  I wanted more magic!  If you are an angsty teenage girl, or an inexplicable fan of Emily Bronte, or stupid Heathcliff and Catherine and Wuthering Heights, you will probably like, nay, love this book with all the powers of your puny being, and maybe even burn brightly for this book.  If you hate those things, well, you’ve been warned.

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