The House of Hawthorne
By Erika Robuck
Publisher: NAL/Penguin Random
Publication Date: 5/5/2015
My Rating: 4 Stars
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 Hawthorneexplores 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 special thank you to Penguin First to Read for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Erika Robuck, the "queen" of bringing historic literary characters of times past- alive, on the pages with passion and inspiration, delivering THE HAWTHORNE HOUSE, a remarkable and vivid portrayal of talent, tragedy, loss, and love in an era of unrest and complication. From letters and journals, paint brushes and canvases, words; a couple, a love, sadness, fame, poverty, and beauty. An unlikely marriage between Nathaniel Hawthorne and novelist, Sophia Peabody, the invalid artist, was indeed a romance of two souls content with words, passion, and creativity, while other things of the world continue to get in the way of this couple’s happiness and contentment. From Massachusetts, England, Portugal, Italy to Cuba, crossing continents, children, family, and turbulent times, an inspiration of a couple, caught in a time of opposition, health, needs, and desire. From the 1830s to the Civil War, two devoted talented and strong willed personalities, driven by desire and creativity, a forgotten woman who inspired one of the greatest American writers. Sophie was Nathaniel’s dove. Sophie, an artist from an early age and her sister met Nathaniel first; however, when he met Sophie he was in love. However, there were outside interferences from both sides of the family. No one was urging them to marry. As so many highly creative people, the couple enjoyed their solitude, away from the world and all its loudness and clamor, even though they were acquainted with some of the most talented literary minds in American literary history, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. As Sophie found to be true, authors are forever unsettled. Longing for solitude to work, but when the words would not come, he acknowledged the interaction with people would indeed stimulate his ideas.
“Nathaniel was wrong about the limitations of words.” In that most holy book, it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Words are the bridge to the Eternal. They hold the power in the cosmos to conjure, transport, condemn, unite, and destroy. “If Nathaniel had understood that the words were arrows in his bag instead of barriers, perhaps then he would have found peace.” “I know the power of words and the way they reach off the page to the reader, dissolving all borders of time and space. I understand how words expand the minds digesting them, allowing those who sit in quiet rooms to embark upon grand adventures with people they could never meet with the circumference of their own lives. For those who do not fear the vocation, it is our change to put down the words, one after another. To make a case. To make a story. I must share his life, because the world needs his story, my story.”
A beautiful and absorbing love story, Robuck transports readers to a time when one extraordinary woman, managing her family, the demands of motherhood, and a constant encouragement to her husband, to get his stories down on paper, content to fill her days with her child, though feeling some measure of guilt for neglecting her own art. They are happy and poor and content, while each night they cling to one another for dear life. Highly recommend to readers of historical fictional, and well-researched account of literary writers, with passionate storytelling and a vivid view at mid-19th century times - a moving and rich literary journey.
Looking forward to reading more by this talented and insightful author.
Photo by Catsh Photography
About the Author
Historical fiction writer, book blogger, voracious reader. Erika's first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING was self-published. Penguin Random House published HEMINGWAY'S GIRL, CALL ME ZELDA, FALLEN BEAUTY, and a short story anthology to which Erika contributed, GRAND CENTRAL: ORIGINAL STORIES OF POSTWAR LOVE AND REUNION. Her forthcoming novel THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE will release on May 5th, 2015.
Erika writes about and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse, and is a contributor to fiction blog, Writer Unboxed. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Hemingway Society, the Millay Society. and the Hawthorne Society. Website Twitter @ErikaRobuck