Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The House of Hawthorne: A Novel by Erika Robuck

The House of Hawthorne: A Novel.  Erika Robuck. Penguin Group (USA). May  2015. 416 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451418913.

Sophy Peabody is an accomplished artist who suffers from viciously painful headaches, especially after she has exerted great effort in creating a beautiful painting.  She is raised with her sister to believe that great female artists should not marry because marriage is a demanding role that will deplete her of all the energy she will need to grow even greater as an artist, a push and pull tension that Sophy will actually struggle with for years.  On a trip to Cuba where she falls in love, she realizes that she can be passionate and still remain as totally invested in her art as is possible. But she also discovers that people can be so dearly loving and blindly evil; so she flees that beautiful country she had come to love with its lush natural scenes and hospitable families.

Upon her return to New England, she meets the dark but sensitive writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne.  The magnetic passion drawing them together is instantaneous and after a delayed wait they marry. They finally settle down into their own home after trying to live at Brook Farm, the Transcendental, agricultural community.  While they agreed with the principals of such a life, they were not up to the hard work of farming.  They are artists who must write and paint.  This is their love story which grows and grows with tender but fierce commitment over the years. 

They endure much suffering during their lives, including the family illnesses and deaths and the dreadful American Civil War.  They, however, are privileged to be able to afford to travel to England, Portugal and Italy, all of which they write about.  Sophy is a life force to Nathaniel, whose dark moods have both genetic and historical roots in his ancestor’s perfidious judgment in Salem, Massachusetts during the brutal witch hunt that condemned so many innocent people. 

The House of Hawthorne… is remarkable and beautiful historical fiction.  The characters are uniquely drawn and their perspective on art, marriage, parenting, slavery, and more compel the reader’s attention and excitement.  Nothing is predictable and everything is unique for this perceptive and endearing couple who create a beautiful tapestry out of the vicissitudes of life and death!  Highly recommended!

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