Source: Penguin Random House
Hardcover, 416 pgs
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The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck is word portrait of Sophia Peabody and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s courtship, marriage, and family, as well as the tensions that arise from two artists balancing their passions with their family. Spoken in the voice of Sophia Peabody, readers are given a glimpse of her passionate painting and love of life despite her debilitating headaches before she meets Nathaniel, an aloof writer who feels the inadequacy of his words on paper. From the 1830s to the U.S. Civil War, readers are taken through their early romance and their marriage. While readers will find Sophia passionate about her work, she still finds joy and love in being a wife and mother, though she does miss her painting. Despite the vacillation between poverty and moderate wealth, the Hawthornes are a family unit that loves deeply and remain loyal to their friends.
“One hand is open, overflowing with an abundance of joy and vitality; the other is a fist, clutching a void so desperately that the nails dig holes in the skin.” (pg. 247)
Like many artists there are period of abundance and times when the land is fallow, and this is true in terms of both writing and painting artistry as well as the funds they earn. Sophia is a headstrong woman, but she quickly learns how to navigate her husband’s moods and comfort him in the best way she can for a reserved man. Nathaniel is an enigma, but we get to see him through Sophia’s loving eyes, which can help soften some of his more anti-social behavior that others may see as mean or aloof. It is wonderful to see the circle of friends the Hawthorne’s have and how those relationships evolve over time, particularly in light of the coming Civil War between the North and South. From the drifting away from the Emersons to the effusive complements of Melville, the Hawthornes remain a tight knit family and rally around each other in times of loss and suffering.
“Our country simmers like a covered pot over the issue of slavery, and while Nathaniel and I do not approve of owning slaves, we cannot imagine what a division or even a war between the Northern and Southern states would do to our young nation.” (pg. 264)
The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck is a stunning narrative that illuminates the often overshadowed life of Sophia Hawthorne and demonstrates how two artists can live together and build a life despite their differences and their own need for solitude and succor. The novel raises questions of self-identity, self-expression, compromise, and the desire to create and have it all.
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.