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The House of the Seven Gables (original 1851; edition 2001)

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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5,14771867 (3.54)1 / 238
Member:jreeder
Title:The House of the Seven Gables
Authors:Nathaniel Hawthorne
Info:Adamant Media Corporation (2001), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, Historical, Mystery, Colonial New England, Salem Massachusetts

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The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Author) (1851)

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This gothic novel is as much about the setting of the creepy old house as it is about the characters. The building of the house of the seven gables by colonel Pyncheon at the expense of the Maule family begins generations of bad luck for the Pyncheons. When we meet the family, there are only a few members left and things are looking bleak for the continuation of the family line. Hawthorne creates a suspenseful mystery around the family and very slowly reveals answers.

I really enjoyed this book. The language was flowery and gothic without being silly and I thought the pacing, while admittedly drawn out, was appropriate. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 20, 2014 |
Shallow story which approaches "gothic", but layered with high quality vignettes. Each page is a delight even if they don't add up to much of a sum. ( )
  DromJohn | Jun 10, 2014 |
It took me a really long time to get through this book, but I'm not really sure why. I enjoyed every moment of it and found the writing clever and accessible. I picked it up initially because I remembered enjoying The Scarlet Letter in highschool and wanted to revisit Hawthorne, but decided to read something I was completely unfamiliar with so that I could decide what my feelings were about his writing without being influenced by my experiences being taught it in school. I liked The House of the Seven Gables far more than I liked The Scarlet Letter, and had an excellent time getting to know the characters -- including the house itself, which functions very much like a character throughout the novel.

The House of the Seven Gables is about the Pyncheon family and their family home, and mainly concerns elderly Hepzibah Pyncheon and her brother Clifford Pyncheon as they struggle against Judge Pyncheon who seeks to uncover a missing fortune. Their story is reflective of what we are told about the entire Pyncheon family history, and there are hints and connections placed around the book about their past and the infamous Pyncheon family curse.

The story is suspenseful and moves along at a moderate pace, though we are given a lot of very pleasurable images of the house and the town and the smaller characters within it. Though it's a very serious book in most ways, there are instances of light-heartedness that I found very refreshing. Hawthorne's prose style is inviting and captivating. I'm excited to continue reading his work. ( )
  vombatiformes | Apr 16, 2014 |
I was bored to death. It felt like reading a journal, like a case study. Hawthorne really loves his adjectives, a lot of describing and less ACTION! (haha) Where's the ghosts? Where's the so-called "romance", not even a kiss! If the characters are trapped inside the HOUSE, the novel also had me trapped, it seemed to never end!!! It was too gloomy, sad, miserable and all of its synonyms!

The last 3 chapters were actually bearable. Maybe because its nearing the end (hehe). Nice happy ending to a really really gloomy book. ( )
  krizia_lazaro | Mar 6, 2014 |
What an odd little story. Nathaniel Hawthorne's second fictional foray into Puritanical New England has the frame of a story — a family curse, an unsolved mystery, a pair of lovers, a properly solemn and hauntworthy mansion — but I find the plot recedes to secondary importance next to the character sketches. These are richly drawn, with whole chapters devoted to the examination of one person's inner workings.

The story is an exploration of revenge, atonement, ghosts, mystery, and money. Far in the past, there was a dispute over the land on which the Pyncheon house was built. The harsh Puritan Colonel Pyncheon used his influence to have his opponent, Matthew Maule, executed for witchcraft. Maule cursed the Pyncheon family ("God will give you blood to drink!"), and Colonel Pyncheon died alone in his study the night of the housewarming — choking on his own blood. The present-day mystery comes in with the loss of the deeds to Indian territory that would make the Pyncheons rich again; did Maule's curse destroy them, too?

The current descendants of the Pyncheon line are less imposing, but no less interesting. I'll never forget Hawthorne's opening portrait of Hepzibah Pyncheon, the quintessential old maid of an old family, with all the dignity and hidden torture of poverty. She is not beautiful, is Hepzibah, and her redeeming qualities of faithfulness and compassion are tempered by others less attractive, like querulousness, weakness, and lack of imagination. She is, quite simply, human.

Clifford Pyncheon, Hepzibah's older brother, is finally home after a long imprisonment for the murder of his uncle many years before. His mind is broken and he is a pathetic aesthete, loving beautiful things but twisted by the ugliness of his life's realities. He is another facet of the mystery, because the reader doesn't learn why he was imprisoned (and whether or not he committed the crime) until the very end.

Into this oppressive atmosphere comes the young and lovely Phoebe, a distant cousin in the Pyncheon family tree who soon becomes indispensable to her older relations. Of Phoebe I have less to say; she is quite a winning creature on the pages of the book, but Hepzibah is by far the more memorable.

Holgrave, the lodger, is another interesting character, but he too recedes behind a more flamboyantly drawn character, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon. In Jaffrey Pyncheon the harsh and unrelenting spirit of old Colonel Pyncheon lives again, but this time under a highly respectable guise. Hawthorne spends quite a bit of time on Jaffrey, turning him this way and that, trying to pierce the inequities and deficiencies of soul that could produce such a moral monster. I found these examinations to be some of the most riveting passages of the novel.

But then, Hawthorne has always been able to fascinate me with his character studies... I've actually read The Scarlet Letter both for a college assignment and then again later for pleasure (strange, I know). There's just something magnetic about his prose and how he so easily navigates the inner lives of his characters. He makes me believe in them.

I have a more charitable view of the Puritans than does Hawthorne, who counted among his ancestors some who played a role in the Salem Witch trials. The Puritans are people like anyone else, and the notorious members of their tribe always seem to overshadow the Puritan men and women of true godliness and spirituality. What I have read of the Puritans' religious writings has been sterling, despite the popular image they bear of self-righteous cruelty.

I'm not sure I will revisit this book; for all its atmospheric settings and unforgettable characters, it hangs together oddly somehow. Not sure why. ( )
1 vote wisewoman | Jan 28, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (93 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hawthorne, NathanielAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brooks, Van WyckIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fogle, Richard HarterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lathrop, George ParsonsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacEwen, MaryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peters, DonadaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schirmer, DukeAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stern, Milton R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Half-way 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.
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This is the main work for The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It should not be combined with any adaptation, abridgement, etc.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553212702, Mass Market Paperback)

In a sleepy little New England village stands a dark, weather-beaten, many-gabled house. This brooding mansion is haunted by a centuries-old curse that casts the shadow of ancestral sin upon the last four members of the distinctive Pyncheon family. Mysterious deaths threaten the living. Musty documents nestle behind hidden panels carrying the secret of the family’s salvation—or its downfall.

Hawthorne called The House of the Seven Gables “a Romance,” and freely bestowed upon it many fascinating gothic touches. A brilliant intertwining of the popular, the symbolic, and the historical, the novel is a powerful exploration of personal and national guilt, a work that Henry James declared “the closest approach we are likely to have to the Great American Novel.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:39 -0400)

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The curse of Matthew Maule descends on seven generations of the inhabitants of an old New England house.

(summary from another edition)

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