Review | The Heights by Juliet Bell

A five-star adaptation of a four-star classic. 4/5 stars.

(*Ducks for avoid rocks thrown by Emily Brontë fans*)

The Heights by Julia Bell

Thank you to HQ Digital and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: A grim discovery brings DCI Lockwood to Gimmerton’s Heights Estate – a bleak patch of Yorkshire he thought he’d left behind for good. There, he must do the unthinkable, and ask questions about the notorious Earnshaw family.

Decades may have passed since Maggie closed the pits and the Earnshaws ran riot – but old wounds remain raw. And, against his better judgement, DCI Lockwood is soon drawn into a story.

A story of an untameable boy, terrible rage, and two families ripped apart. A story of passion, obsession, and dark acts of revenge. And of beautiful Cathy Earnshaw – who now lies buried under cold white marble in the shadow of the moors.

Two hundred years since Emily Brontë’s birth comes The Heights: a modern re-telling of Wuthering Heights set in 1980s Yorkshire.

My take:

The Heights is an excellent modern retelling of Emily Brontë’s classic tale. The transposition of the events of Wuthering Heights to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries works incredibly well, the time shifts are handled skillfully, and the reassignments of the roles of the secondary characters are ingenious. For example, making Lockwood a detective on the verge of retirement gives him a good reason to be unendingly curious about the Earnshaws while also imbuing the whole story with an air of trendy Scandinavian noir.

The Heights also tells the story with greater immediacy than the original. In WH the story is delivered through Lockwood, who is mostly recounting what Nelly Dean has told him, while The Heights gives us firsthand access to events, which serves to heighten suspense and the drama.

When deciding whether to recommend The Heights to readers, the two big questions to answer are:

1. Will someone who has read, but didn’t particularly enjoy WH, enjoy this book?

2. Will someone who hasn’t read WH be able to enjoy this book?

In both cases, the answer depends on what you generally enjoy reading and what you expect to get out of the story.

WH is one of the gloomiest tales of obsession, vengeance, rage and madness in the English language. Nevertheless, it has somehow gained a reputation as a great love story, and this could fool readers into expecting more sunshine and rainbows from The Heights, which faithfully captures the sombre mood and grit of the original.

So if you’re looking for a dark, twisted story of all-consuming passion, add The Heights to your to-read list now. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already read WH or not. However, if you prefer happier stories with the odd laugh, you might want to stick to Austen and her adaptations. And if you’re looking for something between Austen and Emily Brontë, you can’t go wrong with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Overall: a superb modern retelling of Emily Brontë’s brooding tale of obsession and madness. If dark revenge stories are your thing, add this to your TBR now!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul



14 thoughts on “Review | The Heights by Juliet Bell

  1. As a WH fan, I loved this clever adaptation. The violence of the miners’ strike is a suitable background for all the Gothic revenge and obsession in the story. Like you, I thought the new slant on all the characters was ingenuous. I gave it 5 stars on Amazon .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can honestly say, anything I didn’t like to much about it was Emily Bronte’s fault! WH has never been one of my absolute favourites as I never found any of the characters particularly likeable. But as a retelling which is faithful to the original while being ingenious, The Heights is excellent. And you’d never know it was written by two people either – I don’t know how they did it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s no surprise given my adult taste in books that Wuthering Heights was one of my favourite reads as a teenager – I would be upset if the transplantation to the twenty-first century was anything other than dark – this is going on my wishlist straight away so thanks for bringing it to my attention via your fab review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!I
      n that case, you’ll love this! 🙂 The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is because the original WH story has never been one of my absolute favourites. How they’ve moved the story to the modern day is incredibly clever, and the characters are all recognisable.
      I hope you enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Review | The Other Wife by Juliet Bell | Art and Soul

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