Review: The House of Hawthorne

May 12, 2015 1800's, book review, Erika Robuck, historical fiction, NAL 2

The House of Hawthorne
  • Written by:  Erika Robuck
  • Published by: NAL an imprint of Penguin Random House, May 5, 2015
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacts my opinion.

Summary:  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.…(publisher)

My Thoughts:  I read The Scarlett Letter in high school like most of us, and that is where my knowledge of Nathaniel Hawthorne ends. I read it again with all my children has they had it assigned and I’m always amazed how well his writing has help up over 150 years.  Erika Robuck has once again ignited a curiosity in me for a dead author I didn’t know existed.  The life and story of his wife Sophia is really more the focus of this book, but is the passion the Hawthornes share that most sticks with me.  In a time of prim and proper manners and courting their naughty innuendo is shown through their letters and passing glances and touches, certainly much of this is Robuck’s fiction, but the emotions these two shared was real.

Sophia Hawthorne was a woman ahead of her time in her artistic work.  I was saddened that her marriage and life took away her time and energy for these pursuits.  Her devotion to Nathaniel and her children was her everything.

Having blurred the lines of history and fiction, Erika Robuck gives her readers a new look into the life of an author.  Nathaniel Hawthorne lived in a time of other great artists and they were nicely referenced in this book.  He was also torn about the impending Civil War and what best way to abolish slavery in the US.  I recommend this book to lovers of history, authors and all works of Erica Robuck.

 

2 Responses to “Review: The House of Hawthorne”

  1. Heather

    I read one of her earlier novels (about Zelda Fitzgerald) and thought it was good but not great, so I’m not sure I’d pick up more of her books.

  2. Suzanne Fox

    Thanks for this introduction to an interesting book, Anita! I wasn’t aware of it previously, and it sounds intriguing. April Bernard’s MISS FULLER also touches on Sophia Hawthorne in the context of her friendship with Margaret Fuller, so Sophia is getting some attention! Again, thanks for the excellent review.

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