House of the Seven Gables (From Two Angles)

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851

Rating: 3 out of 6.

Hepzibah Pyncheon is so desperately poor she must open a little shop on the lower level of her ancestral home, known as the House of the Seven Gables. She refuses all help from her wealthy cousin, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon. About the same time, Hepzibah’s brother, Clifford comes home after serving a thirty-year prison sentence for murder. The little shop does a dismal business until pretty young Phoebe, a country relative, arrives and charms the customers and lifts Clifford’s depression. A fragile romance starts between Phoebe and the attic renter Holgrave, who, mysteriously, has more than a little interest in Pyncheon family history.

Through flashbacks into the past, we learn this house was built on land wrongfully taken from Matthew Maule, the rightful owner. The guilt and accusations of fraud, along with a curse pronounced by Matthew at his death, follow the family across generations, in spite of their attempt to live upright lives.

Phoebe’s activity of body, intellect, and heart impelled her continually to perform the ordinary little toils that offered themselves around her, and to think the thought proper for the moment, and to sympathize, – now with the twittering gayety of the robins in the pear-tree, and now to such a depth as she could with Hepzibah’s dark anxiety, or the vague moan of her brother. This facile adaptation was at once the symptom of perfect health and its best preservative.

Instead of discussing her claim to rank among ladies, it would be preferable to regard Phoebe as the example of feminine grace and availability combined, in a state of society, it there were any such, where ladies did not exist. There it should be woman’s office to move in the midst of practical affairs, and to gild them all, the very homeliest, –were it even the scouring of pots and kettles, — with an atmosphere of loveliness and joy.

From House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was published in 1851. It is classic literature. It is definitely worth reading. It’s a bit hard for me to judge, though, because I didn’t enjoy all parts of it. And it’s not exactly the type of book you rave about to everyone. But it’s a book to think about; to ponder the meanings of the different lives portrayed in it. I recommend this to you if you like a bit of scary, but nothing that would keep you up at night. its a good, slow fall read, especially if you want a book that isn’t over too quickly and that requires you to concentrate. I had to renew this book three times on Libby, so that gives you an idea how long it took me to read it.

The description of Judge Pyncheon’s character was scary to read. The depth of depravity it was possible to fall into, while outwardly living a life his neighbors applauded was appalling.

The first bit I struggled to understand what was going on. Then there was a goodly stretch of slow build up to disaster. Once I got into the cadence of it, I enjoyed the slow build up of mystery and impending doom. Suddenly I couldn’t put the book down and then it was done. Everything fell into place and made sense.

All of this is understood in bits and pieces, with long paragraphs of description. There is a mildly ominous feeling to most of it. All the while you are waiting, along with Hepzibah and Clifford, for disaster to strike.

Eva’s Take

The House of the Seven Gables

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851

Rating: 4 out of 6.

I am only about halfway through this book and I got completely stalled out. I was determined to finish it this time. I have started it numerous times and stalled. Everything took so long to happen and the descriptions of such irrellevent things (like the cookie Hepzibah sold to a little boy) were so tedious that I quit listening. I do need to give credit to the reader, though. He read the story very well and something about his tone of voice and accent gave personality to the characters and even to the house itself. It was certainly not his fault that I faltered and quit listening.

I loved the scary, ominous vibe this book gave me, though. That is where the two stars come from. Even though I didn’t finish it, I still loved some parts of it and I will finish it one day!

Liz’s description of this book makes me want to finish it and see exactly what happens. I would ask her, but sadly I’m guessing she won’t give anything away at this point!

Have you read this book? What do you think of old classics in general? Would you read them?

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