About Me

My Photo

English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now working freelance, teaching and writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Review: Black Spring by Alison Croggon

Wuthering Heights with Wizards!

No, I couldn't believe it when I read that either, but I loved it. Much of the darkness and strangeness, the ethereality of Wuthering Heights is captured through the fantasy elements in this retelling, while the romance is brought more clearly into focus. Set in a rough, backwards Northern landscape where wizards rule and the bizarre (and tragically pointless) tradition of Vendetta can wipe out entire communities, a southerner, Hammel, takes a break from society. Having become injured on visiting his intriguingly rude and brutish landlord, Hammel wants to know more about the strange man while convalescing so Anna, the servant, tells him all she knows.

Those of you who know Wuthering Heights will recognise the narrative frame there and at the start of the novel, this version is uncannily similar and yet still its own. All the way through, there are episodes and details which mirror the original and were an absolute delight to me. My knowledge of the original (I've taught it as an A Level text a few times so know it quite well) definitely enhanced my enjoyment of this version, but I think it would still stand on its own as an effective novel.

Hammel's similarity to Lockwood is brilliantly done. His lofty voice, his lack of social awareness, his fondness for unnecessarily complicated prose are all present, and (just as in the original) this makes the first few chapters harder to digest than the rest of the novel (largely in Anna's voice). I know that when I've taught this to less-than-keen students, I've had to drag them through the first section until we get to Nelly's bit, and although this isn't as dense (nineteenth-century sentences are at least partially to blame as well!), I fear that some readers may be lost due to this faithfulness to the original. At the same time, of course, any teen readers picking up Wuthering Heights after reading this may well be encouraged to continue due to their experience in finding Anna's narrative more accessible than Hammel's.

There are, of course, differences. Wizards and Vendetta are the most obvious, but there are also others. Alison Croggon has removed some characters and simplified some plot lines. For example, the romance is less of a triangle here and many of the changes add up to make the older Lina (the older Cathy character) more sympathetic - to me at least. [And I should probably own up that, upon returning to Wuthering Heights as an adult, I have found Cathy less sympathetic and more irritating each time. Sorry, Cathy fans! I loved her as a teen but now just, well, don't.]

I apologise that this review is so comparative, but I really can't address Black Spring on its own. It is a reimagining and, for me, a very successful one that is not only likely to encourage teen readers to investigate Wuthering Heights for themselves, but also prepares them for some of the difficulties they may face in doing so. As I said above, I feel that my familiarity with the original enhanced my reading of this and it has very much been a comparative experience. I would still recommend this to you if you don't know the original though, as it is an involving and engaging story in its own right.

From the Back Cover:

An evocative reimagining  of Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte's timeless tale of doomed love.

When Oskar Hammel seeks refuge in the grim Northern Plateau, he discovers a patriarchal society where vendetta holds sway and wizards enforce the code of blood and vengeance.

Through a shocking encounter with the brooding Damek and his wilful young wife, Lina, Hammel uncovers a story of destructive longing and possessive desire beyond his bleakest imaginings.

*******************************
Published 3 Jan 2013 by Walker Books
Find more info on Goodreads
My grateful thanks to the publishers for sending a review copy

1 comment:

  1. I'm nearly finished this novel. The author has done a good job with the 19th century language and the re imagining, but I'm wondering how I would feel about it if I wasn't an adult who has read Wuthering Heights(yes, in my teens, for English Lit). As an adult, I think that Cathy and Heathcliff deserve each other! Horrible people! But whether my teen students will enjoy Black Spring without having read the original, I don't know. I'm only going to offer it to very good readers. I doubt the average reader would like it.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...