Very long review short: I didn’t like this book. At only 158 pages it still took me a full week to read this book and for me that’s AGES. However, this book is my next-to-last book of my 2012 Mount TBR Reading Challenge (24 of 25) and my 14th book for The Classics Club! So at least it wasn’t a total waste. Plus, one quirky thing is they spelled clue ‘clew’ apparently. So strange.
So why, you ask, did I not like this book? First off I fell asleep every time I started to read it. Seriously. I nodded off on the bus, on the subway and even started to nod off during lunch one day, but the big wake-up point (pun intended) was when I started to nod off making dinner one night in a rather uncomfortable kitchen chair and lots of noise around me. So that should REALLY tell you something. However, the worst thing is, is that it’s not a bad book. The story has a lot of potential and the characters were pretty memorable, but the writing was just a bit too detailed or down-trodden or something.
Hawthorne lost me with two very specific points. He told us the ending within the first 20 or so pages and so I kept waiting for it to happen and it didn’t until the absolute end; and he kept talking to the reader, as in ‘Dear Reader, let us examine such and such.’ And although this worked in a few instances, overall it was just tedious and kept me from getting really interested in the story.
I also really wanted to like the story because I visited the House of the Seven Gables up in Salem, MA the first year I moved to Massachusetts. It was neat to visit and they told us all about how there were fewer gables when Hawthorne knew the house and that a later owner restored many of the gables and added a hidden staircase and a cent shop to make it more like the book. Also on the grounds was Hawthorne’s birthplace, which was actually moved to the grounds from a few blocks away to keep it from being torn down.
Recommendation: Stick with The Scarlett Letter, I think it’s better written and a more moving story.
Opening Line: “Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst.
Closing Line: “And wise Uncle Venner, passing slowly from the ruinous porch, seemed to hear a strain of music, and fancied that sweet Alice Pyncheon—after witnessing these deeds, this bygone woe and this present happiness, of her kindred mortals—had given one farewell touch of a spirit’s joy upon her harpsichord, as she floated heavenward from the House of the Seven Gables!” (Whited out.)
Additional Quotes from The House of the Seven Gables
“The act of the passing generation is the germ which may and must produce good or evil fruit in a far-distant time; that, together with the seed of the merely temporary crop, which mortals term expediency, they inevitably sow the acorns of a more enduring growth, which may darkly overshadow their posterity.” (5)
“He was one of the martyrs to that terrible delusion, which should teach us, among its other morals, that the influential classes, and those who take upon themselves to be leaders of the people, are fully liable to all the passionate error that has ever characterized the maddest mob.” (5)
“There is something so massive, stable, and almost irresistibly imposing in the exterior presentment of established rank and great possessions, that their very existence seems to give them a right to exist; at least, so excellent a counterfeit of right, that few poor and humble men have moral force enough to question it, even in their secret minds.” (14)
“In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning-point. The tragedy is enacted with as continual a repetition as that of a popular drama on a holiday, and, nevertheless, is felt as deeply, perhaps, as when an hereditary noble sinks below his order.” (20)
“I find nothing so singular in life, as that everything appears to lose its substance the instant one actually grapples with it.” (23
“As a general rule, Providence seldom vouchsafes to mortals any more than just that degree of encouragement which suffices to keep them at a reasonably full exertion of their powers. (27)
“We mortals, whatever our business or amusement,—however serious, however trifling,—all dance to one identical tune, and, in spite of our ridiculous activity, bring nothing finally to pass.” (81)
“For, what other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one’s self!” (84)