The House of the Seven Gables
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I want to preface this review by saying that I am a big fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I think The Scarlett Letter is phenomenal and I greatly enjoy Hawthorne’s short stories. So when it came to choosing books for the RIP IV challenge, I remembered The House of the Seven Gables sitting on my bookshelf and though perfect!
Unfortunately, getting through this book took all I had–that is not an exageration! It seemed overly verbose to the point where the story got lost for me. The first 200 pages were a description of the house in question, which was built by the Pyncheon family. The House of the Seven Gables took place about two hundred years later, with some Pyncheon ancestors living in the house: Hepzibah, an old maid, along with her semi-imbecilic brother Clifford and their neice Phoebe. There was also a tenant, Mr Holgrove. Hepzibah is forced to open a cent shop in the home because she is nearly destitute, although her cousin, Judge Pyncheon has tried to subsidize her over the years.
The house had originally been built by the ancestral Mr Pyncheon, after he stole the land from a Mr Maule. Maule refused to give over his land when he was alive, so Pyncheon help convict him of witchery in order to have him put to death. Pyncheon then takes control of the land and hires Maule’s son to build the house. On the day of the housewarming party, as all the neighbors show up to the unveiling, Pyncheon is found dead in his study. The house then falls under scrutiny, with numerous mentions of Maule the wizard and a well in back that hold brackish water.
There is also made mention of Alice Pyncheon, another ancestor who comes under the control of Maule’s grandson, Matthew Maule. And then you have Clifford and Hepzibah, living in this decrepit, solemn home. And that’s pretty much all. I won’t spoil the ending for you, although if you can even make it to the ending, I applaud you! What disappointed me most about this book is that it had such potential. According to the afterward, The House of the Seven Gables was the book/story that Hawthorne most appreciated and liked of all his writings. The house stood for all the greed and relentlessness of the Pyncheon family and throughout the book it became more and more apparent to the reader that the house was not the source of the Pyncheon’s problems but rather a symbol of their greed.
I wish that Hawthorne could have toned down his descriptions because the last few chapters of the book really were worthwhile and fun to read. Unfortunately, by the time I made it that far, I was so exhausted from my effort that I could not fully appreciate Hawthorne’s great storytelling. I think, overall, The House of the Seven Gables should have showed me that I don’t have to continue with a book if I’m not enjoying it. However, I kept expecting it to get better. However, as I mentioned previously, once it did improve, it was too little, too late.