I’m so conflicted. On one hand, this was everything I wanted the book to be, as far as a Wuthering Heights retelling set in the Civil War South. On the other hand, it was stranger than I imagined and upsetting, and only about half of Wuthering Heights’ story.
I rarely review books less than 4 stars on the blog but I have a lot to say about Stone Field, and I do think it will be worth reading for a lot of people. It was for me. Though I will say point blank, if you did not like Wuthering Heights, or don’t think you’d like Wuthering Heights, you will NOT enjoy Stone Field. It follows the trajectory of WH in its makeup and tone, including some very passionate insta-love. I suppose in the original it was akin to insta-obsession since they were children when they first meet, and they are older teens here. It works for the characters and for the wildness of the story, but I know it will bother some readers.
I really enjoyed most of the book. I could see what the author wanted to do and reading her Author’s Note made me appreciate all the details of southern Missouri life that she included. I loved her use of language and the power of words. The tone was dark, fiery, and emotional. And she did a wonderful job of painting these very passionate, opinionated characters. I think Effie was my favorite character and I love her ambition to become a doctor.
Because of the nature of the time period, there are a lot of upsetting race-related issues, as well as issues related to women. The way they are treated verbally and sometimes physically, the emotional trauma that they are put through. But the issues are presented in a historically appropriate fashion, which in some ways made it so much harder to read. To imagine real people using such hurtful words and moreover having these hateful attitudes while truly believing they were right. It hurt my heart. And it’s not like these attitudes have disappeared today, either. The longer the book went on, the more difficult it got to read; I also didn’t care for the last quarter of the book, although the very end redeemed it a bit. It took an upsetting turn that I didn’t anticipate.
Cat is a witchy, strange, different sort of girl, which means she is misunderstood by just about everyone except her father and Stone Field. She’s dark and passionate and loyal to herself. She had a unique view of the world but was very selfish and unlikeable at times, much like her inspiration Catherine Earnshaw. The book also dealt a lot with religion and trying to tame her wild ways through Christian kindness. I loved the juxtaposition of Cat’s wild work, her vibrant response to nature vs the town’s increasing preoccupation with propriety and Christian evangelism.
Stone Field, the name that Cat gives the man she finds in their field, was an enigma for much of the book. We come to learn that he is a mix of Creek Indian and possibly African American; he slowly regains his memory and it’s just heartbreaking to learn the prejudices of every kind he’s endured. Even the “kind ones”; I don’t want to spoil because I think his journey is important to the story. I understood his need to find himself. His quest to uncover his past really brought out the selfishness of Cat’s character; she wanted him to forget it all and stay with her and embrace their love. That bothered me a lot, that she couldn’t see it from his perspective at all. That being said, I didn’t like how his story unfolded and wish it had gone differently. But I liked the glimpses of his sense of humor and his personality when he and Cat talk about Shakespeare and the constellations.
It was a beautifully written but flawed book with harsh characters and soul-consuming love vs duty. I’m glad I read it but I’m not sure I would read it again. I would recommend it to readers who love Wuthering Heights and readers who are intrigued by life during the Civil War.
In a small town on the brink of the Civil War, Catrina finds a man making strange patterns in her family’s sorghum crop. He’s mad with fever, naked, and strikingly beautiful. He has no memory of who he is or what he’s done before Catrina found him in Stone Field. But that doesn’t bother Catrina because she doesn’t like thinking about the things she’s done before either.
Catrina and Stonefield fall passionately, dangerously, in love. All they want is to live with each other, in harmony with the land and away from Cat’s protective brother, the new fanatical preacher, and the neighbors who are scandalized by their relationship. But Stonefield can’t escape the truth about who he is, and the conflict tearing apart the country demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.
Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Stone Field is a passionate and atmospheric story of how violence and vengeance pervert the human spirit, and how hatred can be transcended by love.