Black Springs

17262286Author: Alison Croggon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shelves: Fantasy-pr-everything-untoward, Fairy-tale-and-or-retelling, Recipe-for-awesomesauce

“If I am wrong,” she said at last in a low voice, “there is no right, either.”

I love Wuthering Heights. I love Black Springs. I love moors and magic, and while I will always be a peninsula girl, I find it not in myself to reproach plateaus. I love the world, there is so much love, I am radiating it.

After a mediocre end to 2013, flax start in 2014, I have found my stride. Two fantastic, superb, will-give-my-one-pair-of-glasses-for-a-reread exciting books; books that I wasn’t too sure about. How great is that? Great enough to turn me into sunshines and red slippers kind of person. Whatever that means. I’m looking at you and I’m radiating my love, like that girl from Ask the Passengers.

As a retelling, it’s obvious and it maintains the integrity of the original. Lina and Damek, the retold Cathy and Heathcliff, aren’t romanticized, they remain the charming and cruel persons of WH. On its own, though, excepting the sequence of the story- the major moments, the beginning and the end- it’s different, unique.

For one, the story spreads out far beyond the two manors; it encompasses the village, the village crones and their superstitions, nobility and their cruelty, magic tribes, vendetta et cetra, et cetra, et cetra. All these elements of the story aren’t simply decorations; they work with the characters and the tale. Except, I think, because of this, there was a loss in the feel of the place- the atmosphere of the plateau. For a moment here and there, Anna professes her love for the place, and describes what she sees, but it was not adequate enough for me.

Lina was born with violet eyes, the daughter of a witch and a lord in disgrace in an oppressive land where female witches are left to wither and die at birth. Damek is brought introduced in a different manner from Heathcliff- not a child off the streets, but as a charge to the lord from the King, whose mysterious beginning are the subject of gossip.

Moreover, it’s more Lina’s story, I think, than Damek’s whereas, IMO, WH leaned more towards Heathcliff. She’s more of a charismatic person, more feeling; of course, she’s cruel and selfish but she makes you feel for her selfishness. I, for one, was completely fallen for her. Because, damn, she’s powerful and she ain’t afraid to set you right if you believe otherwise.

Black Springs incorporates gender and class issues freely, and considering Anna(Nelly part deux) was a young woman who had grown up with Lina as a sister, her perspective as the narrator isn’t as skewed and old-fashioned, but more passionate. And would you believe it, she admits to not knowing somethings! Take that, Nelly! More importantly, Anna presents a more favorable light in which to view Lina; she redeems Lina in small ways, if I may.

…and there was not one person she knew, including myself, who had not attempted to shape her wild being into a more biddable form. She was like a thorn to which misfortune is bent into an espalier against a wall and which cannot but betray its spiky and unruly nature, no matter how sternly its growth is pruned and directed…Lina’s only real crime was to be born a woman, with powers and instincts that were thought to be proper to belong only to a man.

And, of course, my likeness for Anna trumps my annoyance at her at:

I had always felt for Lina the compassion and love of a sister; now I felt the loyalty and indignation of our common sex.

I am too easy, I know.

So this was a story of a savage land, story of a willful girl, story of a village where vendetta crawls in and leeches away and more, story of Anna; quite a lot. But WH was about revenge and passion. I think it’s the former in which the scarcity is astute. All this, everything and more, it takes too much of the tale, plus the lack of a Hareton and Edgar’s sister, the revenge gives way to suffering and magic. Which by no means is a bad addition, but the improvisations and means to exact retribution were flax, methinks. If not flax, then the emotion behind it didn’t come across well enough for me, a bit hurried. I should also make clear that I’m talking about Lina’s family side of things- her husband, daughter etc. I wish it weren’t so rushed through. Because here, the story ends with Damek and Lina, together, not the legacy of destruction and retribution they leave behind. After Lina’s death, it appears the story is hastening madly towards Damek’s death, to be done with itself.

Another caveat was the presence, actually more like absence, of Kush, the Joseph we know and hate: he appears for a page or two and disappears ENTIRELY from the story until two sentences at the end. That was slightly embarrassing.

General impression, though: by my quasi-hatred of mac & cheese, I swear I LOVE this book. So MUCH YES YES YESSSING involved on my part. I was fairly ambivalent for a while but Oh, mama mia, mama mia! Magnifico!

Platitudes of gratitude to Candlewick Press!!!

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