May 23, 2014

Book Review: Solsbury Hill by Susan M. Wyler

I'm always partial to books with characters named Eleanor, for obvious reasons. Which is perhaps shallow, but is admittedly the reason I picked this one up and started reading it, even though I'm not a fan of Wuthering Heights, and it calls itself "a novel of Wuthering Heights". 
Jane Austen's books have inspired innumerable continuations and sequels, but the Brontë sisters' novels have fewer retellings. In Solsbury Hill, Susan M. Wyler takes the dark love story of Wuthering Heights and updates it into a contemporary romance.
Life has been straightforward for Eleanor Abbott. She's a successful clothing designer living in Manhattan, and is sort-of engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Miles. But then Eleanor catches Miles cheating and gets a call from her nearly forgotten Aunt Alice, who is dying in Yorkshire. Distraught by Miles's perfidy, Eleanor heads to Trent Hall, her family's ancestral English home, and is quickly absorbed by its isolated, windswept allure.

Eleanor discovers secrets about her family--including rumors that Trent Hall inspired Emily Brontë's beloved novel and that she herself is descended from Emily. She also discovers surprising insights about herself, including an attraction to Mead, her aunt's adopted son. Aunt Alice's dying days remind Eleanor of her own mother's death, sending her on a voyage of reminiscence and self-discovery.

Written in a romantic, spare style, Wyler's novel clearly harks back to its inspiration: Eleanor sleeps in a bedroom within a bedroom, and the dark-haired, inscrutable Mead is actually named Meadowscarp (a synonym for Heathcliff). Solsbury Hill doesn't have the same gothic gravitas asWuthering Heights, but with its lonely moors, ghostly apparitions and conflicted heroine, Solsbury Hill's literary roots are strong. Wyler's more happily romantic take on the tragic story makes for an enjoying and approachable read.
My one point of curiosity was why the book was named Solsbury Hill (which only gets a passing reference in the novel) and not Trent Hall, which is mentioned repeatedly. Till I just googled Solsbury Hill and discovered it's a 1977 song by Peter Gabriel. So I guess that the title might be evocative for those who are more in the loop music-wise than I am....
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? I read it a couple of months ago. I seem to remember a sex scene, but I don't think it was graphic. So, sure!

Are you a Wuthering Heights fan? 
Or a Peter Gabriel one?

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness. And this post contains a couple of affiliate links.