Rating: 4 stars
Young Nelly Dean has been Hindley’s closest companion for as long as she can remember, living freely at the great house, Wuthering Heights. But when the benevolence of the master brings a wild child into the house, Nelly learns she must follow in her mother’s footsteps, be called “servant” and give herself over completely to the demands of the Earnshaw family.
But Nelly is not the only one who finds her life disrupted by this strange newcomer. As death, illness, and passion sweep through the house, Nelly suffers heartache and betrayals at the hands of those she cherishes most, tempting her to leave it all behind. But when a new heir is born, a reign of violence begins that will test even Nelly’s formidable spirit as she finds out what it is to know true sacrifice.
Nelly Dean is a wonderment of storytelling and an inspired accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.
As someone who detested Wuthering Heights after reading it for an English Literature course at my college, I decided to give this book a try to see if it would be any better. Despite how much I didn’t enjoy this book’s inspiration, I found Nelly Dean redeemed the characters for me.
Told from the perspective of one of the servants at Wuthering Heights, this book truly depicts the plot of the original in a way that makes the story and characters seem not so terrible. This book made me view the characters in a different light, even sympathizing with some of them. I found myself better understanding Healthcliff’s predicament and why he hated most of the Earnshaw descendants so much.
Hearing this story from the perspective of Nelly also put a different twist on the story from what you hear in the original. You better understood her view of the following events that unfold as well as the part she plays in it. You discover secrets originally hidden in the original storyline and how important a role servants play in great houses like Wuthering Heights.
Another reason I enjoy this story so much better than Wuthering Heights is because of Nelly’s character. I sympathized with her so much while reading this book. She dealt with a lot of struggles with the Earnshaw family but yet still stayed at the house despite her life circumstances. I understood why she was conflicted to leave her service with this family despite her own mother leaving them behind.
The writing style of this story made it more enjoyable too. I like it because the story is told in letter format, though it doesn’t necessarily follow the style of a letter with each chapter. But you know all of the events being described are addressed directly to Mr. Lockwood, despite none of the letters being sent out. I find this to be interesting though, considering Mr. Lockwood is the narrator of the original book. So in many ways, I felt like Case did a good job of making it seem like he was passing the torch of telling the story to Nelly.
While I enjoy this book much better than the original, I still think a majority of the characters are awful. This book slightly lessened my dislike of the characters, but not by much. It definitely made it easier to sympathize with all of the characters by making them seem more human, but I still don’t like these residents. While I understood Nelly’s conviction to stay there, I also had moments where I thought she should leave them. I feel like her staying there just allowed the pain she experienced to never heal. I get being with a family that feels like your home, but I felt like it was unhealthy and caused her more harm than good. Considering she could’ve gotten a position somewhere else, I just didn’t see why she stayed for so long when she wasn’t happy.
But overall, I enjoyed reading Nelly Dean very much. To the point where I’m actually considering giving Wuthering Heights another chance.