Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: Catherine

Catherine, by April Lindner. The GoodReads summary:
A forbidden romance. A modern mystery. Wuthering Heights as you’ve never seen it before.

Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad’s famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years—a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn’t die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her—starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground.

Told in two voices, twenty years apart, Catherine interweaves a timeless forbidden romance with a compelling modern mystery.
First of all, can I just take a moment to admire how well the cover of “Catherine” matches the cover of “Jane,” Lindner’s other book? They just look so dang pretty together. But moving on, like “Jane” was a modernization of “Jane Eyre,” “Catherine” is a retelling of “Wuthering Heights.” I have a bit of a tumultuous relationship with “Wuthering Heights” in that it’s a book that I equal parts love and hate. If you haven’t read it, “Wuthering Heights” is a hot mess of jealousy, pettiness, bad decisions, and unhealthy relationships. It’s pretty much the soap opera to end all soap operas.

So I was curious how Lindner would deal with all that in a relatively short YA novel. And it turns out, she deals with it by not dealing with most of it. She took the basic elements of “Wuthering Heights”—the forbidden and doomed romance, the family relationships, the multigenerational plot—and transformed them into very much her own story. I think I’d even go so far as to say that “Catherine” is slightly less of a retelling of “Wuthering Heights” and more of a mystery as Chelsea tries to find out what really happened to her mother. And while I kinda admire that tactic, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed that a lot of the passion and drama that make “Wuthering Heights” what it is fell by the wayside as the author took the story in her own direction.

I think where the book ended up being weakest for me was in the characters of Catherine and Chelsea, and since they were the narrators, it proved to be a bit problematic for me. Hence (that’s his name), I thought was spot on for Heathcliff—moody, jealous, cruel, mysterious. But Catherine . . . she was a little too kind and responsible and level headed. Usually, those are the traits I like in a main character, but the Catherine of “Wuthering Heights” is so spirited, spoiled, and generally frustrating that I couldn’t help but feel like this new Catherine fell flat in comparison, even though she was more likable than her namesake. Chelsea, I just never got attached to. Like Catherine, she just came across as a bit too unmemorable. And really, I felt like neither Catherine nor Chelsea had a distinctive narrative voice and that their characters were pretty much interchangeable.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. I think it was an admirable attempt, but this retelling somehow lacks the basic underlying life and passion that makes “Wuthering Heights” so emotionally powerful. But I do really recommend “Jane” by this same author—Lindner nails the retelling in that one.

Rating: 3 / 5


  1. I loved Jane so much- I have had Catherine for awhile but I am really nervous to read it! Thanks for the honest review!

  2. I haven't ever read Wuthering Heights but I hear so many things about it. I guess I really should sit down one day and give it a try. I don't mind retellings that add their own twist to the story. It's a bit sad that it didn't really live up to your expectations.

  3. I recently read Jane and had some of the same misgivings. It was alright, but well...
    I have been told that Catherine was better, but I will probably take a pass. Thanks for your review.

  4. I've never actually read Wuthering Heights. I watched one of the movies a long time ago and wasn't that impressed. I don't particularly like the story. You have a love/hate relationship with it. I have more of a dislike/hate relationship (granted, this is based JUST on the movie version I watched). I may or may not pick up Catherine. Sounds like it's far enough away from the original, but I'm not sure if it's something I'd like anyways. I definitely will be reading Jane though. Love/love relationship with Jane Eyre. ;)


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