Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman

"Maybe she'll regret coming back, but right now there is nowhere on earth that could feel more familiar." In this modern re-imagining of Emily Brönte's classic Wuthering Heights, the Cathy character, March, returns home years after marrying the right man, having his child, and resisting the temptation to return to her first love, Hollis, once. Can she resist it again?
Though based off of Brönte's novel, it diverges nicely, and becomes its own story, a story of the destructive quality love has and how much choice we have in the direction our lives take. Written with immediacy, Hoffman doesn't limit herself to the characters and events of the original novel, she introduces her readers to a town full of distinctive and realistic characters. Her landscape is incredibly detailed and stories about all these characters are woven through making the audience feel like they grew up in this town, they are up on all the gossip. She also plays with setting, she uses the marshes and back woods of the town as characters themselves, much the way Brönte painted her scene with the wild moors of England. The mystical qualities of the original have also been incorporated without being copied. Small town superstition comes together with the style known as magical realism (seen in works by Gabriel García Márquez, Laura Esquivel, etc.) where things happen that aren't possible, but yet feel possible. Hoffman often plays on the sense of scent; characters are able to smell feelings like rage and desire.
Hoffman also plays with language. Certain descriptions deteriorate throughout the book, she allows vulgarity and profane colloquialism to invade situations, but that only reinforces the actions of the characters. Also, by putting the story in a modern setting I think it personalizes the main characters. Sometimes when reading a text written in an era that was over long before you were born I think people have a tendency to romanticize the characters and situations. One of my pet peeves about film adaptations of Wuthering Heights is that Cathy and Heathcliff come across as too nice. Too loving and cruelly trapped by fate that is out their hands, too justified in the way they treat people. Putting it in a context that is closer to modern readers, I think, assists in creating a more even-handed view of the characters. Some might argue that they aren't the same characters from the original novel, and that's true, but this adaptation did give me a new perspective on Cathy and Heathcliff.
Even if you weren't a fan of Wuthering Heights or have never read it, you will be able to enjoy this as an independent story that is well told. If you are a fan of the original, you'll enjoy seeing the way the characters are adapted to a modern setting, but appreciate that it doesn't chain itself to Brönte's text.

This book is book #2 for my All About the Bröntes Challenge
This is "Book with a place in the title" (Earth) for What's in a Name? Challenge


  1. Fantastic review!!!!

    I also thought this book gave me a new perspective of Wuthering Heights . . . how Cathy and Heathcliff were really trapped in an abusive relationship.

    I love Alice Hoffman books in general. I really need to pick one up again!

  2. Hummm. I never loved Wuthering Heights, but I like the sound of this one.

  3. I'm glad to have inspired more reading! It's one of my goals in life.

  4. Sounds very interesting, I'll have to check it out! (I'm a big WH fan.)