- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (13 August 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0008123381
- ISBN-13: 978-0008123383
- Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 4.3 x 16.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 717 g
- Customer Reviews: 46 customer ratings
Nelly Dean Hardcover – 13 August 2015
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‘Dazzlingly subversive… a page-turner told in visceral prose’
‘Has the makings of a feminist classic’ THE INDEPENDENT
‘This novel rips the original novel open to fill in all the gaps. Case burrows into their psyches to reveal a further layer of family secrets’ THE TIMES
‘Alison Case has cracked open Wuthering Heights and inserted into the gaps her own richly imagined story. In doing so she manages to pay homage to Emily Brontë without copying her. I never thought I needed more Wuthering Heights. Now I wonder how I could have been satisfied with only the original telling.’ TRACY CHEVALIER
‘This engrossing story of loyalty, love and sacrifice is so good it deserves to be a classic in its own right’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING
‘Spirited and imaginative’ WOMAN AND HOME
‘A gripping tale of familial turmoil and thwarted passion…Alison Case has created a world so real, so grounded in visceral detail, that no prior knowledge of the Brontë classic is required. However I suspect her debut Nelly Dean will entice many (including this reviewer) to reread the original, with fresh and knowing eyes’ IRISH INDEPENDENT
‘[A] rich reimagining of the classic’ Sainsbury’s Magazine
‘Utterly engrossing’ THE POOL
About the Author
Alison Case received her BA from Oberlin College and her PhD in English Literature from Cornell University. A Professor of English at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, she has published two books and many articles on nineteenth-century British fiction and poetry. This is her first novel.
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In ‘Nelly Dean’, Ms Case presents Nelly as having joined the Earnshaw household as a consequence of her mother’s friendship with Mrs Earnshaw. Mrs Dean had also been Hindley’s nurse. While Nelly knew that she was not really a member of the Earnshaw family, she was – for some years at least – more of a companion to the children than a servant. This changed after Heathcliff’s arrival: Mr Earnshaw banishes her for a slight to Heathcliff. Although, with Mrs Dean’s help, Nelly returns to Wuthering Heights, she is formally employed as a servant. But Nelly remains close to Hindley, and falls in love. This is Nelly’s story, and offers a different, more sympathetic perspective of how Hindley is led to ruination.
It’s a wonderfully detailed account of life at Wuthering Heights: the duties of a servant at a farm in rural England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; observations of the lives of the major characters of ‘Wuthering Heights’; explanations (some more plausible to me than others) of various events in the novel.
‘See, that’s how it is when you tell a story.’
I mostly enjoyed this novel. While I don’t envisage the backstory of Wuthering Heights in quite the same way as Ms Case, this novel mostly fits within the framework of my own imaginings and prejudices. For I do have prejudices: ‘Wuthering Heights’ has been my favourite novel for close to 50 years and Heathcliff and (to a lesser extent Cathy) are live in my imagination. This novel augments ‘Wuthering Heights’, it does not attempt to alter it materially, just to enrich it. Does it succeed? That will depend on how the reader approaches it. For me, the strength of this novel is the bringing to life of a central but secondary character. Nelly Dean the servant we know from ‘Wuthering Heights’ itself. Nelly Dean the woman, we do not. In ‘Nelly Dean’, the woman rather than the servant is central.
Top international reviews
I had, therefore, little option but to read this novel. Can't help myself! I felt certain that I was in for yet another disappointment. However we live in hope so I opened the pages tentatively and got stuck in....and yes, I was disappointed
The book is very competently written, and until I got half way through it I was thinking 'This is rather good!' and was looking forward to shelving it with my other 'Keepers' to read over again in the future. A few minor turns of phrase had niggled me in the first half, '....visit with her' being the one that leapt out and pointed directly at the American authorship. Nobody in Yorkshire would have used such a phrase at the time the book was set and I doubt if many inhabitants use it now! The 'with' is completely superfluous. Nor did I appreciate 'Penistone Crags' being misspelled throughout and given an extra 'n' - 'Pennistone Crags'; why did the author or editor feel the need to alter it? Squeamish that readers might be offended by the name ( which, incidentally, is pronounced 'Penny-stun' and NOT 'Penis-tone' ). Emily Bronte uses the correct spelling throughout her novel ( it refers to the real 'Ponden Kirk' near Haworth ) so in the interests of verisimilitude why alter it?. Where the author got the village of 'Penniton' from is anyone's guess, as I don't believe it exists in that or any other location. Just laziness, surely she could have invented a name for a small village without corrupting a misspelling of her own choosing! But these are mere quibbles and didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book much, thus far.....but then....
Oh dear. The eye-rolling boredom began to set in. With Chapter 16 came the disastrous attempt at a West Riding of Yorkshire lower-class dialect. Why bother, if you haven't a hope in hell of getting it right? Leave it to the expert ( Emily Bronte ) and don't insult the people of the place, or the reader with your daft '...hoos wife has coom with oom' routine. It's not amusing and it adds nothing whatsoever to the plotline.. The author had, apparently, been to Haworth. A pity she didn't take a tape recorder, or at least get a resident to check her abysmal rendering of a local dialect. It might have stopped her making a fool of herself. At that point everything went rapidly downhill and I knew I was in for a struggle.
I shall gloss over the very silly breastfeeding fiasco, other reviewers have mentioned it. Chapter upon chapter of ridiculous 'padding'. Boy! was I sick of Nelly's paps by the time I'd ploughed my weary way through it all. Or to put it another way, 'I were reight stalled wi' all t' titty tales'.
By this time both I and the book were running out of steam. What had started as a very promising novel degenerated into nicely written bilge. The Independent review on the frontispiece suggested that this had the makings of a feminist classic. I must have missed something. A wasted opportunity by someone who can clearly write well. but not worth more than two stars from me. And those I give for the competent writing and the clever idea of basing a novel on a character from the original 'W.H.' Nothing for the plotline, which was weak and contrived. But no, it's not a 'Keeper' for me.
You don't need to have read 'Wuthering Heights' to cope with this 'spin-off', but it would be a travesty and an insult to Emily Bronte not to.