|Captivating storytelling of a passionate love between the Hawthornes|
The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
NAL Hardcover May 5 2015
eGalley provided via NetGalley in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating:
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...
A vivid re-imagining of nineteenth century transcendentalists and feminism, The House of Hawthorne introduces us to famous figures of the era while boldly portraying Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne as none have attempted before.
Growing up in Massachusetts when emancipation issues begin to affect society, young Sophia and her sister Mary travel to Cuba in hopes of a healthier existence. While there, they are exposed to slavery and its cruelty firsthand, tormenting her fragile sensibilities further. Her soul is a creative one and it finds an outlet through painting, but this also leads to excruciating headaches. She eventually paints for a rising literary star Nathaniel Hawthorne and after a long courtship they are finally married - each in their thirties.
Author Erika Robuck slowly builds up this romance story, weaving us under the Hawthorne spell. We feel the artistic tension while the couple tries to cope with the daily toil of chores (as opposed to simply doing "what we were born to do") which are too mundane and oppressive for the likes of them. Despite the charities of fellow literary greats such as the Browning and Emerson families, financial struggles plague the couple forcing Nathaniel to take a real job in government through his previous classmate Franklin Pierce.
The novel portrays a palpable passion between Nathaniel and Sophia throughout their marriage, where Sophia is his "dove" and she is willing to give up seemingly everything for his happiness. Their family grows as the years go on, with grief and sorrow permeating the pages even as we feel the intense connection between the two.
Robuck's newest novel brings to life the courage and values of the Hawthornes, displaying both the gloomy and intense sides of creativity as well as the blissful euphoric moments. This exquisite blend of history and emotion is gift wrapped with the prose of Robuck's hypnotic writing style making The House of Hawthorne an easily recommended historical novel.
I will say that that eGalley formatting of this novel was very distracting. Major distractions were the missing quotations where appropriate and the page breaks (where I would assume there was one) were very non-existent. I wrote the review with the hopes that the finished copy corrects these issues.
Erika Robuck is a favorite novelist of mine, and you can find all my reviews of her published work here at the Burton Book Review.
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