Monday, March 4, 2013

Catherine by April Lindner

Catherine by April Lindner is a modern retelling of Wuthering Heights. It's been half a lifetime since I read the original, but I don't think that hampered my enjoyment of the book.

Since she was very young, Chelsea had been told that her mother Catherine had died. Upon learning that Catherine actually ran away, Chelsea sets out to discover the truth about her mother's disappearance. Her search takes her to the hip nightclub where Catherine grew up -- and to Hence, the club's bitter, withdrawn current owner. There's some history between Catherine and Hence that Chelsea is only beginning to discover -- does he know why her mother ran away all those years ago? Does he know where she is now?

The story is told in alternating viewpoints, switching back and forth between Chelsea's adventure and Catherine's teenage romance with Hence. Readers who are familiar with the original will not be surprised to learn that it doesn't end well for Catherine and Hence -- but they may be surprised at how Lindner evokes sympathy for the tempestuous pair. I remember Wuthering Heights as basically a perfect storm of dysfunction (hilariously caricatured by Jasper Fforde in the group therapy scene in The Well of Lost Plots), but in this book teenage Hence has moments of genuine likability. There are a few issues, of course -- Chelsea is not the most fully realized character, and most of the choices she makes over the course of the book are bad ones (at least from this adult reader's point of view), but I was definitely engaged to the very last page. I'd recommend this to both fans and detractors of the original, as well as those who have never read it but have a vague idea of what the story is about.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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