Spoiler free | Rating: 4.5 stars | Read: 13 August – 18 August, 2018
Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights isn’t necessarily a re-telling but a filling in of the gaps. In the original Victorian novel, Emily Brontë implies that Nelly, the servant, has romantic feelings for Hindley, the master’s son. Alison Case doesn’t mess with the original story, but instead explores this relationship by focusing on the parts Emily neglected to tell. For this reason, I was quite sceptical at first. I’m not always a fan of re-tellings, especially if the story is inspired by a novel I love (you only have to look at Jo Baker’s Longbourn to see this), but this was different.
My biggest worry with re-telling is the lack of authenticity: does the author truly know these characters? Does the difference in time create a barrier between the stories & their authors? Will the author mess it up completely? Well, I can tell you one thing for sure, you needn’t worry with Case. She knew these characters like the back of her hand, and could create an image of them easily. Nelly’s depiction was by far the best. Case portrayed her as more than just a servant, giving her a voice and a backstory. Although the narrative is still told through Lockwood, Nelly isn’t distant from the readers anymore.
Nelly had so many layers to her character – the most important being a maternal figure for the children of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Emily certainly touches upon this in her novel, but Case really dives into how Nelly is fundamental to the lives of those around her. Her past trauma, which I won’t mention because spoilers, allows her to have this nurturing and maternal side which Case displays in all its glory. The novel’s message, in its most basic form, details the lengths that mothers will go to for their children. It’s intense, very emotional, and described so vividly. It’s not canon, but the way Case wove Nelly’s story makes it seem so.
My only issue with this was the second to last chapter. I won’t spoil it for you, but I really wasn’t convinced by it. It was so far-fetched, especially as the narrative was going in a such good direction up until this point. It didn’t have to take that turn, and I’m still questioning why Case chose to dump that surprise on us. It didn’t work. Nonetheless, the very last chapter managed to pull it back for me. I read near enough four hundred pages of Nelly’s hardships, and I was wishing for an ounce of happiness with every new page, so I wanted to scream when I was finally given it. I’m super happy with how Case chose to end Nelly’s story.
All in all, Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights was well worth the read. It surpassed my expectations. By not re-telling the original novel, Case managed to make Nelly Dean her own story and her own character. It felt authentic, it was both beautiful and poignant, and was just an all-round great read. I would definitely recommend!
Have you read Wuthering Heights or Nelly Dean? What do you think of Nelly?
Thanks for reading, Lauren X
5 thoughts on “Alison Case’s Nelly Dean:”