The house of seven gables- Hawthorne   Leave a comment

This book is a gothic novel written in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorn, famous for ‘The Scarlet Letter’. Hawthorne is famous for being part of the american group of writers who, along with Fennimore Cooper and others, wrote to show off their own knowledge and breadth of vocabulary.

As a result, this book is wordy in the extreme. In fact, i was half way through and the story had not even begun to develop. All of the action occurs in the last quarter of the book, and to be honest, a modern editor would have sliced large amounts out of the book and it might be a novella!

Despite these negatives, it is a good story, and has been dramatised a few times.
If you can steel yourself to fight through Hawthornes unnecessary waffle, the description of the death of the judge is perhaps the worst, then it is still a good narrative with some good characters.

I also feel it is a little over sentimentalised, particularly when dealing with the brother, Clifford, and his reactions to his niece, Phoebe.

The story weaves around a house in Salem,which Hawthorne actually visited, belonging to his cousin, and which took a part in the famous witch trials of 1692. Of course, Hawthorne had to involve some witchcraft, the original owner of the land is accused to be a sorcerer by a local uritan, with the intention of him gaining his land. He promptly builds this house on it, the son of the condemned ironically being the builder. At a party to celebrate the finishing of the building the puritan dies strangely in his study, apparently in a way which complies with the curse placed on him by the sorcerer before his death. And so the curse is established.
There are sections when we move back and forth between the centuries, but the majority of the story takes place in present day 1800s. One of the few remnants of the family is left in poverty, but in possession of the house. She is pursued by her cousin, the judge, who is determined there are secrets in the house pointing the way to riches, but Hepzibah refuses his entry to the house. To make ends meet, she opens a small grocery shop.

Phoebe, a young niece arrives for a visit and makes herself at home. Next, the suffering brother of Hepzibah, Clifford, arrives home. It gradually becomes apparent that Clifford has been wrongly incarcerated in prison for the last 20 years for the murder of the Judge’s father, mainly on his contrived evidence. Clifford is depressed and a shadow of the man he was.

Phoebe returns home for a visit, and at this point, over half way through the story, the action truly begins.

The Judge inveigles himself into the house, and finds Clifford to question him about the hidden treasure in the house. Clifford has no ideas, and leaves the Judge in the large study chair, in which both the original Puritan and the Judge’s father mysteriously died. On returning, it is discovered that the Judge has also expired. Clifford and Hepzibah panic and flee.

The body is found the next day, by the lodger, who is relieved when Phoebe returns, and worried about the implications for Clifford and Hepzibah of them panicking, so avoids telling anyone. At this point, Phoebe and the lodger declare their love and decide to announce the death.

At this moment, Clifford and Hepzibah return, much to everyones relief. Next, the lodger announces that he has misrepresented himself, and is actually a descendant of the Sorcerer’s family, but he bears the family no ill will. He establishes that all of the men, who have mysteriously died in the same chair, have a congenital heart disease, thus exonerating Clifford from the accusations.

Hepzibah and Clifford decide to leave the house and live in the country, in the process they move the picture of the original Puritan, finding a device in the back, which suddenly Clifford remembers he found as a child, and realises this is what the Judge was seeking for.
It contains a secret document which gave the family rights to large amounts of lands, signed by Indian Chiefs. It is discovered that these are now no longer valid.

And so we come to the end, and all of the Judge’s machinations are seen to be pointless.

I think, this book is worth persevering with; regarding it as a good example of the writing style of the time, but worth reading due to the originality of the story.

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Posted July 3, 2017 by dianne7 in Uncategorized

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