Google+ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Catherine by April Lindner

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Just Finished Reading ... Catherine by April Lindner

Catherine
by April Lindner
Published by Little, Brown/Poppy
on January 2, 2013

Source: bought




My summary: Chelsea always thought that her mother Catherine died after a sudden illness. At seventeen, she discovers a letter written by her mother, a letter explaining why Catherine left her husband and young daughter. Chelsea, determined to find out who her mother was and what happened to her, heads to Manhattan, where the letter was mailed, and takes a trip into her mother's past. She'll meet Hence, a once-famous musician, and learn about the passionate, turbulent love affair between him and Catherine.

My take: As books by the Brontë sisters go, I always preferred Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights. Plain Jane and her noble Rochester always seemed so much more appealing than spoiled, impetuous Cathy and moody, vengeful Heathcliff. That said (and after reading what feels like a hundred Jane Eyre retellings) I've now decided that Bella Swan might have been right -- Wuthering Heights is actually much better suited to a YA retelling than Jane Eyre. When you think about it, Rochester has so much baggage, what with the crazy ex-wife and his ward. Then there's that somewhat squicky age difference between the two of them. In contrast, Cathy and Heathcliff are so angst-ridden, so well-matched in their tempestuousness -- just a couple of crazy kids in love.

Catherine is a clever updating of Wuthering Heights for a 21st century YA audience. While die-hard Wuthering Heights fans might find the revamp a little tame, I really enjoyed it.

Narrative structure: At first, I was a little unsure about this aspect of Catherine. Chelsea's account of her investigation into her mother takes place in the present. Her narrative alternates with Catherine's love story, which presumably takes place in the 1990s. Then I remembered that Wuthering Heights also uses a frame narrative. A man rents a house on the moors of England, meets his mysterious landlord, Heathcliff, and is told the story of Heathcliff and Catherine by a housekeeper, Nelly Dean. In light of this, I decided that the flashback-flashforward storytelling actually made sense. Since Chelsea's story was the unraveling of an old mystery, and Catherine's narrative was the evolution of a new love affair, they balanced each other out nicely.

Characters: Most of the central characters carry over. Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff are renamed Catherine Eversole and Hence. (Yeah, I wasn't thrilled about his new name, but I got used to it.) In the original book, Cathy's daughter is also Catherine. It made sense to rename her ... but after the Chelsea Hotel? Maybe. Catherine's father and brother reprise their roles in the new story, though brother Hindley has (thankfully) been renamed Quentin. The characters in Catherine do feel a little toned-down from the original, which didn't bother me, though now I'm ready to read a really out-there Catherine and Heathcliff as Sid and Nancy kind of retelling too.

Heathcliff's ethnicity:  In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is described as a "Lascar"(which, according to Wikipedia, is a sailor or militiaman from the Indian subcontinent) and a "dark-skinned Gypsy," though, as an orphan, he may not know his heritage. In Catherine, Hence is described by Catherine as having "dark eyes, glossy hair, skin like coffee with extra cream." Quentin, who is jealous of Hence and his relationship with Catherine and their father, insults Hence with a racial slur.

Mystery:  While Wuthering Heights is not a mystery, I think the addition of Catherine's disappearance in this retelling is a plus. Not only does it give Chelsea the impetus to investigate her mother's past with Hence, it does fits the original story, which includes ghosts and the supernatural. There was a bit too much information imparted by characters using Google for my taste (I'm pretty sure I also remember this problem also in Jane) and only a few viable suspects in Catherine's disappearance, but I still enjoyed watching Chelsea try to figure the whole thing out. I also really loved the fact that in Catherine, what drives Catherine and Hence apart isn't some kind of nutty love-hate thing, but just reality.

The Setting: Wuthering Heights takes place on the Yorkshire moors, and the setting is tied in to the themes of the book.  The untamed danger of the moors -- a place that is bleak and forbidding in winter, yet blooms to life in the spring and summer -- echoes the tempestuous relationship of Cathy and Heathcliff. As someone who lived and went to school in the East Village in the 1990s, I was beyond excited that Catherine used the Lower East Side for its setting. While Catherine does make reference to musicians real and imaginary and talk a little bit about the CBGB-inspired club that Catherine and Quentin's father owns, I felt the setting was both underused and a little vague. But that could also be because it's a setting that's so familiar to me. And the cover -- what? Is that the Flatiron building? If so, that is nowhere near the Bowery.

The ending: No, I'm not going to tell you what it was, but to me, it did fit the spirit of the original story.

Interested? I'm giving Catherine away in Hot Off the Presses this week -- come over and enter to win this or several other January YA releases!

44 comments:

  1. I read Wuthering Heights in university and I really liked it ... though, when I read Catherine, I couldn't really remember the details of what happened to compare the two. I think it might be time for a reread! Oh, and I wasn't thrilled with the name Hence, either ... it was a little confusing! But I also got used to it.

    Great review, Jen!

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    1. Yeah, Hence was a little odd. Then again, the original had some really strange names too.

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  2. I'm excited about trying this but I'm already getting bad memories of reading WH, one of my most hated classics ever. I just hated the characters so much. I'm hoping this update will show them as more sympathetic.

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    1. Definitely! In the original, they were just kind of nuts, IMO. Give it a try!!

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  3. It's been forever and a day since I've read Wuthering Heights but this sounds good. Plus I got excited when I saw the cover because I've been there!

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    1. Okay, I didn't get the cover at all and forgot to mention that on my review. This cover looks like she's standing in front of the Flatiron building which is NOWHERE near the Bowery!

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  4. I had no idea that this was a wuthering heights retelling! having not read the original I probably would never have realised either. Hence does sound like a bit of a weird name!

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    1. Try it and see what you think! I'm curious to hear the opinion of someone who has no familiarity with the original.

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  5. I never read the book because I hated the movie, but I just bought the penguin classic deluxe edition; the cover art is done by Rueben Toledo and I love it. I figured it was time to read it.

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  6. Hmm, loved the way your describe the book! I have this one to read and I love her first book that she wrote. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hope you love it! If you liked Jane, I think you'll love this one.

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  7. I really liked Wuthering Heights, so I may give this one a try at some point. Thanks for the fab review hon!!

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    1. If you liked Wuthering Heights, you should definitely try this.

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  8. So interesting that you just read and reviewed this because I just received Jane in the mail from Paperback Swap and I am anxious to get started on it! But I think I actually prefer Wuthering Heights to Jane Eyre when it comes to the Bronte sister's works, so I am anxious to read Catherine too. I like how both books have music elements included.

    And yes, it's awesome when a book takes place somewhere you are familiar with, as Catherine did with you and the East Village!

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    1. I liked this one better than Jane. I wanted modern Jane to be a little bit less passive.

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  9. Wuthering Heights is my husbands favorite classic book. I keep promising to read it one of these days.

    I enjoyed Lidner's retelling of Jane. I saw the cover for Catherine at BEA but for some reason I didn't connect the two when I started seeing this one in all the IMM posts. It looks kind of dystopian to me lol

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    1. Have him do s guest review!

      If you liked Jane, you should read this!

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  10. I haven't read the original (I KNOW!) so I am really intrigued on how I'll like this one without having anything to compare it too. I do like the premise to Jane more so I think I will be reading that one first. But they do sound good!

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    1. It shouldn't matter that you haven't read the original. It was fun to see the story choices that she made, but you'll still enjoy it!

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  11. I think I want to read the original now.

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    1. Wuthering Heights is one of those books I kind of love and kind of hate at the same time. Would love to know what you think.

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  12. I also prefer to read Jane Eyre above Wurthering Heights (I haven't read the book, but I saw the movie and I didn't like the characters. Perhaps I should pick up the book, because I have a copy) I wasn't blown away by her first book, Jane, but I'm definitely willing to give this one a try. I like the idea of unraveling the mystery surrounding Chelsea's mother. Nice review! :)

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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    1. It's a very dysfunctional love affair, for sure, but that's in style right now!

      The mystery was a very fun touch!

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  13. I agree about the name Hence. Interesting choice and probably not what I would have chosen. Love the review! I will have to read this. I did like Wuthering Heights, but it isn't one I can re-read a lot like Jane Eyre and Austen's novels. I think I will like this one though since it's a little more tame. :)

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    1. I don't know -- I really wish she had made Catherine and Hence as crazy and dysfuctional as Cathy and Heathcliff. But I still enjoyed this book!

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  14. Wait, how did I miss Lindner had a new novel out?! I loved her take on JANE EYRE (which I've always loved, in a weird, probably slightly morbid way, haha) ... I'll confess, I've never read WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but am crazy intrigued by this. Very cool ...

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  15. You know, I always get nervous when I'm reading a novel and Wuthering Heights is the MC's favorite book. Because it makes me fear the love story to come. I'm a weirdo! This is one story that I generally avoid all adaptations of. But I did like this author's book JANE. Still not sure if I'll pick it up, but sounds like an interesting take on the classic.

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    1. This probably will make no sense, but if you hated WH you will probably still like this. There is a kind of love triangle, but not the kind you hate.

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  16. This is one I'm really dying to read. I've never actually read Wuthering Heights, but everything about this retelling appeals to me. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

    Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction

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  17. Wuthering Heights has always irritated me because Cathy was such a wench, although I did like Heathcliff and Cathy's passion. Catherine sounds more up my alley, and I'll definitely check it out!

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    1. I know, that's why I love and hate the book. She and Heathcliff were a couple of wackos -- they love each other, they HATE each other. It's all so exhaustingly emo. But this book toned that down a lot.

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  18. Interesting... I've never read Wuthering Heights though, I have to admit. But huh, a modern retelling with a mystery sounds like something I'd enjoy. Though the name Hence... O.o

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    1. Yeah, the name Hence kept making me wince. But I still liked the book!

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  19. Unlike most of my classmates, I loved Wuthering Heights. I've forgotten most of the details now, but I think I'd still really enjoy this retelling/reimagining.

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    1. Then you HAVE to read it. Just Google the Sparknotes and refresh your memory. It will come back to you!

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  20. I was looking forward to your thoughts on CATHERINE, but I find myself just fed up with all the re-tellings around at the moment. I need writers to start thinking & being fresh & original.

    Maybe I just need to make a cup of tea.

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    1. You completely crack me up. And yes, tea makes everything better.

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  21. I'm so excited to see this review! I didn't know the author had a new book out. I really enjoyed her Jane Eyre retelling in JANE. My only conundrum here is, do I read WUTHERING HEIGHTS first? I've admittedly never read the classic.

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  22. I enjoyed the classic and i must admit you have me oh so curious about this one!

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  23. Don't laugh, but I clicked on this review because my good friend is named Catherine. I hadn't heard of this book before, but I really really really want to read it after I read the review. It sounds pretty awesome :D I'm putting Catherine down on my list!

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  24. Don't laugh, but i clicked on this review becaus I have a good friend called Catherine. I'd never heard of the book before, but it sounds really good! I can't wait to get this one, I've put it on my reading list! :D

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