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Windward Heights Paperback – July 1, 2003
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Set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Maryse Condé's Windward Heights is a retelling of the Emily Brontë classic Wuthering Heights. The title of the novel alone might tell you that something formulaic is afoot--and the book does for the most part mirror the wretched and doomed story of Heathcliff and Cathy. But Condé's plan is actually ingenious. She goes beyond Brontë, using shades of human color as a metaphor to illustrate subtle variations on evil, misery, and racism.
Heathcliff's counterpart in this story is Razyé, a cold, brutal, and relentless dark-skinned man of questionable origins. We meet him just before his return to the home of his youth--and to his Cathy, who has married a wealthy white creole: "He was dressed all in black in the French fashion, from his tightly-laced leather boots to his felt hat sewn with a large hem stitch. His skin too was black, that shiny black they call Ashanti, and his hair hung in curls like those of an Indian half-caste, the Bata-Zindien. Nobody could hold the gaze of his languishing eyes, where churned who knows what pain and solitude."
Razyé always destroys what he loves, and as we expect, Cathy soon dies. He avenges her death by punishing everyone near him--his wife, his many children, the entire island of Guadeloupe. Society itself is devoured by his aggression and hatred. This is Razyé's essence, and Condé uses him to make her point: the agony of not belonging, of hating oneself because of one's race, is toxic. Though the translation from the French could be more sophisticated, the skill with which Condé has adapted Brontë's masterpiece shines through. --Teri Kieffer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A professor of French Caribbean literature at Columbia University and a prize-winning author whose novels (including I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem and Segu) draw upon African and Caribbean history, Cond? sets her latest offeringAa complex reworking of Emily Bront?'s Wuthering HeightsAat the turn of the last century, a period of socialist organizing and social unrest in the Caribbean. The novel opens in Cuba, shortly after the death of the revolutionary Jos? Mart!. Razy?, a young man who, as a foundling, was named for the razy?, or heath, on which he was discovered in Guadeloupe, has decided to return there and exact revenge from Aymeric de Linsseuil, the rich Creole who married Razy?'s beloved Catherine Gagneur, the daughter of the man who raised Razy?. He achieves vengeance by marrying Aymeric's youngest sister, Irmine, but only after impregnating Catherine, who dies giving birth to their daughter, Cathy. Razy? lives on, trying to learn the arts of Santeria so that he can resurrect Catherine, and becoming wealthy. He passes on his hatred of Aymeric to his first-born, the so-called Razy? II. Cathy and Razy? II meet and fall in love, but the scars left by one generation are borne by the next, and they cannot achieve happiness. Describing a social and political moment far more complex than Bront?'s, Cond? introduces a host of first-person narrations by servants, fishwives and hired hands, which are the most winning passages in the novel. Because Cond? clearly knows how to weave a large and beautiful tapestry and has done so in earlier books, it's hard to say why she chose the corset of Bront?'s novel. A much larger, more satisfying novel seems ready to break free from this one. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Windward Heights is a Caribbean retelling of Wuthering Heights. However, while the novel is rich in Guadeloupean culture and history, the main plot offers no surprises if you're familiar with Emily Brönte's novel.
I think an issue with this novel is that it is too ambitious. Not only is the story of Razyé and Cathy, but also the story of Guadeloupe. It is definitely interesting to learn about all those facts, but I wish the only focus had been the story of Razyé and Cathy. There are too many characters in the book, whose only purpose is to give context to the novel, and, by the middle of the book, this becomes a bit tiresome, regardless of the interesting facts they have to tell. Simone Schwarz-Bart's novel "The Bridge of Beyond" is more effective in telling a story through the history of Guadeloupe.
Finally, dialogues are scarce, which makes the novel almost 350 pages of narration. Don't get me wrong, Maryse Condé uses beautiful language and it never feels like reading a history book, but I am not fond of so much narration.
Again, Windward Heights is a novel worth reading, but I prefer "Crossing the Mangrove", also by Maryse Condé, which keeps you guessing and in suspense from beginning to end, and it's also set in Guadeloupe.
Conde following the Bronte storyline closely which means a plethora of characters with confusing relationships, the only weakness in the novel.
The sickness of spirit that results when a child is not loved or accepted by the society in which he or she lives is dangerous to all of society. In Conde's version the Heathcliff character wreaks havoc on the region, not just family members.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS was never the romance portrayed by Merle Oberson & Laurence Olivier, it is a story of obsession and revenge. Conde's version is beautifully written and seems more up-to-date.
Bronte fans will enjoy comparing the original to WINDWARD HEIGHTS & Alice Hoffman's version in HERE ON EARTH.
The characters are at once powerful and vulnerable - the women are especially fascinating in that they breathe sexuality yet appear within the rigid confines of the society of the day.
The book is a 'remake' of Wuthering Heights, but don't let that put you off - it manages to deftly weave the original with Conde's own unique blend of interests and concerns - race, social injustice and hypocrisy. As modern as it is classic.