The House of Hawthorne
by Erica Robuck
Why did you choose this book? the cover drew me in
When did you read this book? May 2015
Who should read this book? lovers of classic literature
Source: Penguin First To Read
Here is a synopsis of The House of Hawthorne from Penguin First To Read
The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses.
From Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl, comes a brilliant new novel about a literary couple. The unlikely marriage between Nathaniel Hawthorne, the celebrated novelist, and Sophia Peabody, the invalid artist, was a true union of passion and intellect.…
Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman’s traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia’s vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children’s needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia’s energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.
Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature…
I saw this one was available through the First To Read program and the cover really drew me in. Just look at that cover! It leads me right into wanting to know more about these people and why the woman on the cover is watching the man walk away!
Even though I love the cover, the book didn’t really live up to my expectations. It took me a LONG time to get into the story. The writing is actually beautiful and very detailed, and to me, it felt much like I was reading a classic. And that is one of the problems. I don’t usually enjoy classics! (Though ironically, I did enjoy The Scarlet Letter, authored by the subject of the novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne!) After trudging through about a third of the book, I did get to the point that I felt the story flowed, and I liked it enough to continue reading. Like all good historical fiction, this book caused me to take frequent ‘Google breaks’ to learn more about what I was reading!
The book tells the story of the marriage of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody. In many ways Sophia’s experience parallels the experience of modern women, who often feel pulled between career and family. When Sophia makes the decision to set aside her career for a domestic career as wife and mother, she is taken to task for making that choice, even though she appears to be very happy with the choice.
One thing I really enjoyed about the book was the interaction of other historical characters with the Hawthornes. They ran around with a pretty impressive circle of friends; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to name just two! They would gather with their friends to discuss ideas and to discuss their art, though Nathaniel Hawthorne was more a listener than a talker. It reminded me very much of the Bloomsbury Group salons in Vanessa and Her Sister (which I still need to review!), except that these characters were much more likeable!
Though this will not be a memorable book for me, I did like it, and I learned from it. I think lovers of classic literature will love this book and rate it much higher than I did.
My Rating: ★★★ 3 Stars
I received an advanced review copy of this book through the Penguin First To Read program in return for an honest review.