Young Nelly Dean has been Hindley’s closest companion for as long as she can remember, living freely at the great house, Wuthering Heights. But when the benevolence of the master brings a wild child into the house, Nelly must follow in her mother’s footsteps, be called servant and give herself to the family completely.
But Nelly is not the only one who must serve. When a new heir is born, a reign of violence begins that will test Nelly’s spirit as she finds out what it is to know true sacrifice.
Nelly Dean is a wonderment of storytelling, a heartbreaking accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.
This is one of those inescapable titles that once seen must be immediately bought. Being a fan of anything Bronte with a particular adoration of Emily Bronte and her masterpiece of a novel, Wuthering Heights, how could I not read Alison Case’s Nelly Dean?
My attention was first brought to this book at a Huddersfield Literature Festival committee meeting in August. I was very innocently handed a flyer regaling the events taking place as part of the Bronte Festival of Women’s Writing. Before said meeting had begun, I had very efficiently purchased a ticket to the writing workshop with Alison Case (more on this in a later post) and downloaded Nelly Dean onto my kindle. Oh technology, how I love thee.
A Professor at Williams College in Massachusetts with an academic background focused on Victorian Studies, Narrative Theory and Gender Studies, with several publications well respected in her field, Nelly Dean is Alison Case’s first novel. Her expertise and love of 18th Century novels clearly comes across.
Nelly Dean was everything I expected and more. Case delves into life at the Heights, enriching Emily Bronte’s flawless story with expertly imagined back stories. She gives Nelly a stronger voice and deeper experiences while taking nothing away from Bronte’s original characterisation of the beloved house keeper. In this, Case explores other minor characters from Wuthering Heights. This gives us access to individuals in the village that were overlooked in the original stormy love story on the moors. I was particularly blown away by Nelly’s relationship with Hindley and the ensuing complications; the enigmatic elderly woman with a penchant for potions; Nelly’s industrious mother and wayward father; the explanation of Mr Earnshaw’s adoption of Heathcliff; and all the inhabitants of the tightly knit community on the Yorkshire Moors.
If you’re a Bronte fan, you will adore this book.