Title: What Souls Are Made Of
Author: Tasha Suri
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: July 5th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
As the abandoned son of a Lascar—a sailor from India—Heathcliff has spent most of his young life maligned as an “outsider.” Now he’s been flung into an alien life in the Yorkshire moors, where he clings to his birth father’s language even though it makes the children of the house call him an animal, and the maids claim he speaks gibberish.
Catherine is the younger child of the estate’s owner, a daughter with light skin and brown curls and a mother that nobody talks about. Her father is grooming her for a place in proper society, and that’s all that matters. Catherine knows she must mold herself into someone pretty and good and marriageable, even though it might destroy her spirit.
As they occasionally flee into the moors to escape judgment and share the half-remembered language of their unknown kin, Catherine and Heathcliff come to find solace in each other. Deep down in their souls, they can feel they are the same.
But when Catherine’s father dies and the household’s treatment of Heathcliff only grows more cruel, their relationship becomes strained and threatens to unravel. For how can they ever be together, when loving each other—and indeed, loving themselves—is as good as throwing themselves into poverty and death?
CW(from the author): This book contains abusive family dynamics, including physical and emotional abuse, child endangerment, and forced family separation. The story also contains depictions or references to racism, famine and hunger, slavery, parental death/bereavement, alcoholism, and mental illness.
I have very few classics which I even like a little bit and I can confidently say Wuthering Heights isn’t one of them, and I never thought I would enthusiastically read a retelling of the story. But that’s what happens when my most favorite author Tasha decides to tell it, I pounce on it with grabby hands because how could I not. I was so upset when my arc requests got rejected and I was waiting for the release when I got the opportunity to participate in this blog tour, and I can’t even say how ecstatic I was about it. And the book was everything and nothing like I expected it to be.
Having followed Tasha on social media for a few years, I think I know a teeny bit about her sensibilities and there are a couple of elements I’ve come to realize she absolutely loves in both writing herself and the media she consumes – gothic atmosphere and yearning. And she has decided to infuse these elements in spades in this book. I don’t have enough words to describe the writing here but stunning is one that surely comes to mind; the words captivated me instantly and had me in their grip throughout without ever letting go. The atmosphere the author creates is all pervasive and I could feel the howling winds, the creaking wood, the fear that comes with confronting the ghosts within and without, and the terror that is not knowing one’s own past and not being able to determine one’s own future. The yearning for freedom and understanding and that one person who completely knows you (知己 really is the perfect word that comes to mind) seeps into you through these pages and makes you feel every single gut wrenching emotion.
So yes, this is a love story and one that both nurtures and destroys. But the author infuses so much more depth into the classic. Colonialism might never be shown in any of the classics that we end up reading but Tasha is not one to shy away from the horrors of the times, and here we get an intimate glimpse into the lives of those who are separated from their homelands – either through force or circumstances – and have to fight for every scrap of survival, while forgetting their own identity, hoping for a reprieve. But even while talking about the bleak lives of these forgotten people, the author manages to show the bonds that develop between them when they have nothing more left to lose, and what a hopeful feeling it is to want to work together for the betterment of each other’s lives, all while reclaiming some part of their forgotten identity. Tasha has a list of book recommendations at the end featuring colonialism, the lives of Indian settlers in Britain during those times and the forgotten history of the minorities and immigrants who were very much a part of the country even in the eighteenth century; and I’m very interested to get to these books and learn more.
I don’t think I ever finished reading Wuthering Heights but I do remember skimming through a movie adaptation of it but not liking either the story much or the characters. And tbh, I started off feeling the same about the characters here as well and it was the gorgeous prose that kept me going. Cathy is a haunted young woman, who has found it always difficult to fit in and thinks that she wants a life of peace and abundance, and especially escape from her home full of ghosts. But she also has this wildness in her which yearns for freedom and feels terrified at being confined to the life of a rich gentleman’s wife. She can come across as bratty and selfish but it is clear that she is also depressed and missing the one person who she feels most connected to.
Heathcliff is also a character who is haunted by the past that feels just out of the corner of his mind, is beaten and bruised and humiliated but survives because of his unexplainable connection with Cathy. But when he finds himself away from her, he gets the opportunity to learn more about his forgotten identity as well as meet people who come from similar backgrounds and are living in dire straits, struggling for survival.
While we only get to see the bond that they share in glimpses during flashbacks, it’s obvious how much they feel for the other, almost bordering on obsession. But the character progression they each go through happens when they are separated and are able to explore and learn what is most important to them, how to achieve it, and what they are ready to do for each other. There is a lot of ferocity and wildness in their personalities and even in their relationship which is usually only tamed and satisfied when they are with each other, but when they are separated, they hone it to find their purpose in life and their way back to each other.
There are quite a few side characters but it’s hard to say any of them is very memorable when we have two main characters whose presence is very overwhelming. But the found family that Heathcliff finds in Liverpool in James, Hal, Hettie, Annie, Mrs. Hussain and her family are unforgettable and are the catalyst for him realizing that anger is not his only emotion and he can be more than the vile words that others use to humiliate him. Cathy’s family on the other hand is all full of anger and despair and it infects every little bit of their home and lives and while Nelly tries to keep the peace and Cathy’s nephew Hareton safe, her brother Hindley is a ticking time bomb they all have to walk on eggshells around. Edgar and Isabella are the embodiments of a safe and rich life that Cathy can choose if only she can let go of her soulmate.
In the end, I don’t think I can even say whether I liked this book or loved it or didn’t – all I can say is I felt every bit of it. The words here are magic, the story both horrible and hopeful, and one goes through a gamut of feelings while reading this book before landing on that tiny bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Whether you are a fan of Wuthering Heights or not, if you want to be transported into this gothic world of pain and love and obsession and more, and experience the beauty of Tasha’s prose, I highly recommend this book. I promise it’ll get its hooks in you pretty quickly and make you not wanna leave. This definitely is my favorite of the four remixed classics I’ve read till date but I’m also looking forward to be wowed by the upcoming ones, especially Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Till then, I’ll ruminate on these lovely words…
“I know now, that I’d send my soul to you wherever you are. Because wherever you are is where I belong.”
PS: Thank you so much to Colored Pages Tours for providing me with the opportunity to participate in this book tour. Also thanks to Feiwel and Friends and Tasha Suri for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.
Tasha Suri is an award-winning author, occasional librarian and cat owner. Her South Asian influenced epic fantasy novels include The Books of Ambha duology (Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash), and The Jasmine Throne. When she isn’t writing, Tasha likes to cry over TV shows, buy too many notebooks, and indulge her geeky passion for reading about South Asian history. She lives with her family in a mildly haunted house in London. What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix is her YA debut.