BOOK CLUB: Ill Will

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Author: Michael Stewart
ISBN: 9780008248154
RRP: $29.99
Publisher: HQ Fiction
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

I loved Wuthering Heights as a teen, it has had multiple reads and I even gave it a reread a couple of years back when I read a newly released companion novel to the original, even on my last read I loved the story. I always try to check out the books that take me back to the moors around Wuthering Heights and so I have read a couple of stories about Heathcliff as well as Nelly Dean.


It is for this reason that I knew, as soon as I saw the upcoming release, that we needed to read Ill Will for book club and I hoped that there would be a lot of Cathy and Heathcliff fans in our club.

Ill Will is published in 2018, two centuries since the birth of Emily Bronte, a timely coincidence some might say. Michael Stewart fell in love with Cathy and Heathcliff through the lyrics of Kate Bush’s 1978 hit Wuthering Heights, a song which I must confess I also love, as a seven year old boy. Yeas later he read the book and his curiosity deepened.

As a lover of Wuthering Heights I was intrigued to see what a modern lover of the story would do with it and I’m not quite settled on what I thought. I have only just finished the book and wanted to start getting my thoughts down while they are fresh.

It is always a risky business to take classic characters who have endured for over a century and start to rewrite their story from a modern viewpoint, because regardless of how good you are there is a big difference between a Victorian era classic and a book written in the 21st century about Victorian times. Michael Stewart has taken his love of this story and his unanswered questions and tackled the three years that Heathcliff was missing from Wuthering Heights; he is not the first modern author to try and fill in the gaps and he probably won’t be the last. I have read a couple of other books focused on the missing years and it was a long time ago so I don’t actually remember anything about them but it would be interesting to read them all one after the other and compare notes on how each of the authors thought he spent his time.

The storytelling and the plot came across as authentic and slid themselves into the gap missing from the middle of Wuthering Heights but the language certainly did not. I think if you did a find and count for the dreaded C word in this book you would be staggered by the total, I don’t have an issue with the word and there are times that it really just fits in the context it’s used but I didn’t feel that way with it’s use in Ill Will. I’m not sure what constituted a nasty epithet in 1780 and chances are I never will but it doesn’t feel authentic to me that they would have been the F and C words that we use today.

Another issue I had with Ill Will is that in his remembrances Heathcliff thinks a lot of his time at Wuthering Heights and so he talks of those memories, and in the retelling we are given a lot more detail than we ever had from Wuthering Heights. It cast his relationship with Cathy into a new light.

Ill Will begins as Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights after overhearing a snippet of conversation that left him feeling shamed and humiliated. He is determined to make something of himself and return to wreak revenge on those who wronged him. The story is all told by Heathcliff and it’s like he’s telling the story to Cathy.

I was really looking forward to this read, filling in the gaps and hearing another perspective on what might have happened in the time that Heathcliff was gone, what had changed and molded him into the cruel tyrant that returned in 1783. My anticipation and excitement may have hampered me because I found the first half of the book to be a very hard slog. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the storyline and the plot but I just found it hard to really engage; I do think a part of that was that I found the language very jarring and it messed with the flow for me.

Heathcliff is lost and lonely, his love and only ally has spurned him for the wealthy Edgar Linton and he is being eaten up by rage and a need for revenge. He travels across the moors, largely making it up as he goes along. He is headed in the general direction of Liverpool because that’s where he came from and he wants to try and discover his origins.

We always heard Heathcliff described as dark skinned with dark hair and eyes, and as a gypsy, so I had an image of him in my head that didn’t match with the picture painted by Stewart. This is really quite a small thing and not a huge issue, it just took some getting my head around after having one picture in my head for 25 years and having to rethink that.

Heathcliff changes dramatically in his travel across the country looking for answers. He meets Emily while working on a farm and rescues her from a whipping, determined that he will leave her safe in the next town when they have outrun the trouble. Emily is a little enigmatic; she’s quite young but circumstances have forced her to age beyond her years and it’s quite easy to lose sight of her age. In the end Heathcliff can’t leave her behind and the two become partners in all manner of money making schemes.

Even with this highly detailed and sometimes tedious account of Heathcliff’s lost years we are left with quite a big chunk of time unaccounted for. This gives us quite a lot of detail on the first year or so that he’s gone but doesn’t really touch on his education.

Overall I did enjoy Ill Will. It takes Heathcliff and Emily on an interesting adventure across the country and furnishes Heathcliff with more answers than he bargained for. I would definitely recommend it… with a language warning. Stewart did a pretty admirable job of staying true to the original but he elaborated on a little more than I thought was strictly necessary.

I am a fan of Wuthering Heights and I was intrigued by Ill Will, having said that I am sure there are people who aren’t familiar with the characters or the story and I’m sure they will also enjoy the story, as a standalone book.

The sense of atmosphere is retained and I feel that Ill Will fits in relatively well with the original.

Ill Will is published by HQ Fiction and is available now through Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to HQ Fiction 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Ill Will so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

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18 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Ill Will

  1. Ill Will book is a very scary, plenty of action and swearing. So sit back and go along for the ride of your life as you read about these two young people who want to live without nightmares.

  2. Thankyou Beautyandlace Harper Collins and Michael Stewart for the opportunity to read Ill Will..
    Having never read Wuthering Heights (I know shame on me) I guess I approached this story of more a stand alone. I certainly enjoyed parts of the story of William Lee ,how he was to meet Emily and their travels to Manchester and eventually Liverpool. I was very taken by the avid descriptions of the surrounding landscape and when the reached the cities the description of the people and places made one feel as if they were there along side William and Emily..in the 1780s Emily is very worldly having spent her growing up with her bushranger father so her ideas and cunning are beyond her years..William becomes very protective of Emily as they struggle to survive.
    I did not like the constant coarse language and thought it bought nothing to the story and also struggled with the graffic violence and had I been at the movies there were lots of places I would have closed my eyes… I was with William all the way as he tried in vain to find his heritage and to also revenge those he thought had wronged him.
    I will now be looking to read Wuthering Heights ,a bit overdue I believe.

  3. I was really excited to receive “Ill Will” and im pleased to say it did not disappoint.
    Ill Will is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights Story in his own words. He takes us on a journey as he deals with all the anger he has inside and his goal to make something of himself. We learn about his past and how he came to be at Wuthering Heights and what caused him to leave. He saves a young girl, Emily who he ends up becoming quite found of and together they travel the roads with their dream of becoming well educated and wealthy.
    There is some strong language and some quite graphic content in this book but I found it all to be in context and not just thrown in there for the hang of it. Although the main character is quite a troubled young man he was one I found that I wanted the best for as although I didnt like some of the things he did I felt like I had an understanding of where he was coming from in his mind.
    This is not a book thats all sunshine and roses but it is a book that will grab hold of you and take you for an interesting journey.
    I really enjoyed reading this book and would love to read more by Michael Stewart.

  4. I love “Wuthering Heights” so the prospect of a book about the middle period when Heathcliff leaves Cathy in order to become a gentleman is an interesting one. This book follows Heathcliff as he journeys via Hebden Bridge to Manchester and Liverpool where he discovers his parentage and meets his match in a conniving young woman named Emily. The pair are dangerous and wreak havoc along the way but they also successfully accumulate enough wealth to see Heathcliff return to his beloved Cathy.

    This novel was an exciting one, even though you have a rough idea of how it will all end. My only major criticism would be that I felt that author, Michael Stewart overdid it at times with the profanities and graphic descriptions of Cathy bedding Edgar Linton. The latter seemed particularly unnecessary as Heathcliff had only just seen Cathy agreeing to marry Linton prior to his departure from Wuthering Heights. Also, because this seems at odds with the language exhibited in Emily Brontë’s original work, a shame as so much care and attention had been shown elsewhere to be true to that exact time and period of the novel’s original setting.

  5. Ill Will is certainly an interesting story about Heathcliff’s journey from Wuthering Heights and the traumu he feels in being betrayed by his love, Cathy. His life as he travels across the country is not easy and turns into quite dramatic after he meets the young and elusive Emily. The pair find that their paths are joined as they turned their life from being very poor and fending for their lives to wealth and leaving destruction in their path.
    I also found the book very hard to read due to some of the storyline and graphics, however, it is worth continuing this unique story to the end.

  6. Thankyou Beautyandlace and HarperCollins for the opportunity to review ‘Ill Will’ (the untold story of Heathcliff) by Michael Stewart.
    The book begins in 1780 and gives us an account of Heathcliff (alias William Lee, although he used other names as well!)
    Rescued and brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr Earnshaw, he has endured cruelty from Mr Earnshaw’s son Hindley and initially from Cathy Mr Earnshaw’s daughter. It tells us how he a Cathy become close and of her abandoning him for a wealthy man, ridiculing him and leaving him bitter.
    He leaves Wuthering Heights striving to better himself and in search of his mother.
    Finding work along the way, he rescues Emily an eleven year old girl, they team up on a journey to Manchester and Liverpool. A formidable pair, a street wise orphan and a tough, violent Heathcliff this book lends itself to an interesting story.
    This book is not for the squeamish or those who dislike strong language, I myself could see beyond that as it was a good read.
    It’s not the style of book I would normally choose but I did find it well written, descriptive (sometimes a little too much!) and historic.

    It’s a detailed account of life in the 18th century. I don’t recall having read ‘Wuthering Heights’ so this is definitely a stand alone book if you haven’t read that either.
    I enjoyed it.

  7. To be frank I think it’s very ambitious to take on a classic novel and try to tap into it’s magic. And Wuthering Heights with it’s incredibly haunting sensuality and passion is a very hard act to follow.
    While Ill Will by Michael Stewart does tap into the moodiness and the cold, melancholic locations of the original story, for me it didn’t capture the same essence. Nor did the character of Heathcliff and his relationship with Cathy ring true. Instead of a love that surpasses the physical and points to a spiritual connection that is inescapable for both of them, the relationship in Ill Will focuses primarily on the physical and describes their relationship in crass terms. Heathcliff’s actions are shown as little more than that of a jilted lover. He is depicted narrowly, as a brutish and crude man driven by his thirst to get even with Cathy, Hindley and Edgar Linton and to show them that he is as good as they are. Indeed he is shown as quite a thug prone to violent, frenzied and brutal attacks -outbursts which are described in great detail – and to me seemed over the top. I also found the swearing and graphic language of the book quite jarring. ( I Don’t think Emily Bronte would approve )
    The story is nevertheless interesting, and takes up with Heathcliff from when he fled Wuthering Heights with little education and no money. In the original, Heathcliff returns three years later having acquired both, but with little explanation of how he did it. Ill Will tells the story of what happened in those intervening three years…
    As a stand alone novel I quite liked this book, it tells an eventful tale, but in terms of rounding out the story of Heathcliff and Cathy from Wuthering Heights, not really.

  8. The Ill Will story picks up the absent years of when Heathcliff left Wuthering Heights.
    If you haven’t read Wuthering Heights this book is easy enough to follow. The introduction gives a description of Heathcliff’s story and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his adoptive sibling Hindley, which intensifies when Mr Renshaw his adoptive father passes away and is part of the reason why he leaves. The other part is due to when his adoptive sister and very close friend Cathy is taken in by a wealthy family; she turns her back on him. Feeling betrayed and full of anger and hatred he has no reason to stay at the Renshaw property he was brought up in and decides to go search for his birth mother.

    Heathcliff must take the journey on foot without any provisions all the way to Manchester and Liverpool. Under a new identity of William Lee, he rescues a young street wise girl called Emily. At first she is a nuisance but together they endure the journey while wreaking havoc along the way.

    The story has some ghastly content of abuse, violence and bad language. I was somewhat prepared for this from watching the Wuthering Heights movie (so I must admit haven’t read the book) so I knew that it had some dark moments. Some I felt wasn’t really well placed, and while I don’t have the original book to compare to I wonder if it was a bit over the top. In saying that the book was well written with an interesting plot, just the content isn’t for the faint hearted.

    I would like to thank Beauty and Lace Book Club and Harper Collins Publishers for my copy to read and review.

  9. Ill Will tells the story of Heathcliff and his journey with Emily, an orphan he helps along the way. I haven’t read Wuthering heights but this did not affect the novel at all.
    I did find the two main characters likeable in their strength and determination but I did not enjoy Ill Will as I found it too violent and the murders too descriptive for my liking.

  10. I was drawn to want to read ILL WILL by Michael Stewart because of the connection to Wuthering Heights.

    Although I have not really read this book I felt I knew what it was about (obviously not) because I was born and grew up very close to where Emily Bronte lived, the author of Wuthering Heights, and it was often
    talked about by others.

    In Wuthering Heights Heathcliff leaves after being rejected by his only love for three years and this book is a version of what happened to Heathcliff or William Lee as he is known in ILL WILL and returns as a gentleman seeking revenge.

    As I lived in this area as a child I was very impressed by the lovely descriptive writing of the countryside as he along with Emily the ten year old daughter of a highwayman walk over the Yorkshire Moors visiting various villages and towns on their way to Liverpool.

    The vivid events which occur along their journey are extremely graphic and violent. Not for me I’m afraid but I guess somewhat indicative of the time and circumstance they found themselves in.

    Another problem I had with this novel was the language. In any other circumstance (considering I was to review this book) I would not have read beyond the first forty pages but I kept going and I must say putting aside the violence and language it became a very engaging story.

    While I feel this is such a well written book full of Rage, Hurt, Confusion, Tenderness and Compassion I am not sure whether I can recommend it wholeheartedly because of some of the disturbing aspects In this story.

    Thank You to Harlequin and Beauty and Lace.

  11. It’s been a long time since I have read Wuthering Heights, but thankfully that didn’t seem to matter in reviewing this book.
    I can imagine that life was tough and the countryside where the tale is set woud have been a rough one, but like other readers I feel the use of so much swearing was a bit to take in. I also felt the story to be quite slow going with so much travelling and describing the landscapes with little happening here and there until really the latter part of the book. It wasn’t until William and Emily reached Manchester and then Liverpool that I finally settled in and got into the story. I was glad, to be honest, to finslly be getting into the book, as early in, it was really not doing much for me, and if I wasn’t reviewing Ill Will, I may not have persevered.
    The characters though were well developed and I enjoyed their interactions, plots and scheming to get by. Their relationship was interesting to watch as they stuck it out and grew to really care for each other.
    I do want to re-read Wuthering Heights now, but sadly, I would not add this book to my “must read” list.

  12. Emily Bronte must be turning in her grave. The swearing made me very uncomfortable (there was a lot of the “c” word). I’m not sure how anyone gets permission to write a “prequel” to a classic. On the other hand, it was actually a great story. I do recommend it, but my advice is to ignore the Wuthering Heights connection and read it as its own novel.

  13. I thought this book was in the same spirit as Wuthering Heights. A very dark and violent book with a lot of swearing. It didn’t seem like a romance more an obsession..
    In some ways I could see how Heathcliffe would want revenge for the treatment of his mother but it was a bit over the top.

  14. I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Stewart’s take on the three years Heathcliff was missing from Wuthering Heights. I haven’t read Wuthering Heights so had no preconceived ideas of what he should be like. The prologue gave me a good idea of Heathcliff’s need for vengence against Hindley and Cathy. Stewart’s descriptive prose and superb characterization kept me enthralled throughout the entire tale. Once you get past the overuse of offense language in the first few dozens pages it does settle. Young Emily’s potty mouth and wisdom gave me a few chuckles. The graphic violence may not be for everyone.

  15. What a surprise! 4/5 Thanks to Beauty and Lace and the pubishers HarperCollins UK for the chance to read this book. I may be the only person in the world to have not read or seen a movie of Wuthering Heights although of course it is a significant part of popular culture, and I know the name of Cathy and Heathcliff but that is it-rashly I am assuming Heathcliff is a tearaway but not a run away black orphan. The humourous contrast between the pale blond and worldy Emily and the black, somewhat innocent nameless boy, was cleverly done. I did not like the strong bad language and some of the violence was really in your face, but it did make the book stand out. I would not go as far to say I like the characters but you were very much drawn along to see if they could make their way with the spiritual connections and whether revenge would be cast upon Cathy and her like. Without spoilers I did find it an engaging read, actually easy to read, good strong characters and you knew who you were to hate and who you were supposed to support, and a strong story thread to take you along the journey. I did not at all expect it and I enjoyed it!

  16. I loved ‘Wuthering Heights” and was looking forward to some imaginative story to fill in the gaps but unfortunately,for me the book “Ill Will ‘ has not done justice to the work of Emily Bronte. In fact it bothers me that the two books have been linked together. The over -use of unnecessary coarse language is not in line with the classic ‘Wuthering Heights “. That being said though as a stand alone book “Ill Will” is a good tale which would be entertaining for those not so in love with the style of Emily Bronte.

  17. I have no knowledge of “Wuthering Heights” so read this as a stand alone novel, written by Michael Stewart.. I felt it portrayed the period and its harsh realities very well.
    The story tells of a young man, Will, his escape from a torturous situation and his search for his birth mother. He meets a young girl, Emily and fate forces them into an alliance against almost everyone else. These is a lot of ‘bad’ language and violence in the book. Neither of these elements bothered me. I was however upset my Emily’s eating habits and wondered why Will did not insist that she curb her behavior.
    Stewart writes in a very descriptive manner. At one stage Will and Emily are living and hiding in the forest, under shelter that they made themselves. I loved his descriptions of this time. I could feel their hunger and almost smell the forest.
    It took some time to read this book as the story did not hold my interest. Although, while I was reading it I was taken in my the storyline. The ending disappointed me.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harpter Collins for the opportunity to sead a book, I would otherwise never have chosen.

  18. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review Ill Will by Michael Stewart.

    Despite my best efforts, sadly this book joins that small collection of books that I have been unable to finish reading. I found the style of writing difficult to engage with, the level of the coarse language a distraction rather than an essential ingredient, and struggled to follow and make sense of the story.

    I don’t believe I have read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights on which this tale is supposed to be based so I am unable to comment on the authenticity of Stewart’s take on Heathcliff’s missing years or the style of writing used. Suffice to say I did not enjoy what I did read and would not recommend this book to others.

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