Monday, May 4, 2015

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of the Seven GablesThe House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This was a great book. It was very different from The Scarlet Letter style-wise with lots of description which set mood, tone, and gave layers of additional meaning. Luckily, I've been reading so much Dickens lately that I was able to recognize when to abandon my usual "don't bore us, get to the chorus" reading style and sink into those layers. Hawthorne also does eccentric characters who you learn to love in a way that is Dickens-worthy also, including (but not limited to) a family of chickens.

It has plenty of mysterious, haunted atmosphere but isn't without comedy. I already mentioned the chickens, of course. The urchin who comes daily to Hepzibah's shop to buy gingerbread cookies was a delight. Indeed, Hepzibah's efforts to set up her "cent shop" were both humorous and touching in the way that the best writing can be.

Here's the way the back of the book description began: "The House of the Seven Gables is one of Hawthorne's defining works, a vivid depiction of American life and values replete with brilliantly etched characters." And it goes on through "lives caught in the common fire of history."

Wait, were you trying to get me to NOT read it? Luckily I was lured into reading so that I could listen to SFFaudio's discussion of it a year ago. That may not be enough to lure you so I will try to do a little better.

The Pyncheon family lives in a mansion built on land wrested from Matthew Maule after Colonel Pyncheon accuses him of witchcraft. Maule laid a curse on the Pyncheons before his death, that they would choke on their own blood. Of course. And many of them have in the generations since then. Also of course.

The family has dwindled to aged spinster Hepzibah and her mentally disturbed brother Clifford. When they are helped by sprightly, young cousin Phoebe and then threatened by rich, malicious cousin Judge Pyncheon the house's ghosts begin to descend on the cursed family. And there is a mysterious lodger. Also a family of chickens.

Now THAT'S a story I'm going to read. And you should too.


  1. It was a good novel, and besides it was an enjoyable read.

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