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review 2020-06-01 14:35
The House of Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Another Classic ticked off my list. This one was written in 1851 and very definitely has the tone of that era of writing. Very verbose and slow moving, with no real interaction between characters.

 

The story is more about the house than the people, though it tells the story of several generations, mostly of the Maule and Pyncheon families. One of the Maule ancestors was accused of witchcraft and executed, and the house was taken and ended up in the hands of the Pyncheons, though the Maule relatives were the rightful inheritors.

 

There is a curse, a crime mystery and two centuries of superstition attached to the house. The plot was interesting, but I found it very slow reading. I never felt really involved with any of the characters because the style of writing kept them impersonal.

 

Still, I'm glad I read it. I've seen the house when I was on a trip to Boston and Cambridge in Massachusetts and I can see how it would inspire a story. It was actually built for the Turner family in 1668, so the story is completely fiction. This is one for those who really love 19th century stories.

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review 2020-04-13 01:36
Fanshawe (Hawthorne)
Fanshawe - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Although this shortish novel is not bad, I can understand why Hawthorne wished to suppress it as unworthy juvenilia. It's much more laboured in construction, and much more reliant on stereotypes for characters, than his mature work. The nominal hero, Fanshawe, an over-studious type destined for an early grave, gets little or no attention for much of the book, and then roars into action (as it were) in the last two chapters, and the resultant love triangle - with a healthier but somewhat more dissipated suitor - is unusual in that our poor heroine is faced with not one but two lovers who nobly recuse themselves from the contest, albeit temporarily.

 

That said, Hawthorne's ability to tell a good story is already evident. His descriptions of the natural New England forest and the habitations therein in the late 18th century are already well-developed. It's already apparent, I note with amusement, that he is downright reluctant to write an outright villain; even in this early work, everybody has a backstory that gives some reason for their falling away from righteousness.

 

Nature and the landscape inform and drive parts of this story: the climax takes place at a secluded cave at the foot of a precipice, over which flows a waterfall. Hawthorne paints this scene very clearly for us, so that we understand the mechanics of the conclusion of his plot. I did not, however, detect very much of the other half of the beauty-and-terror Gothic equation, namely the terrifying, though there's a thunderstorm for Ellen's ill-advised departure with a strange man. Ellen herself is completely without character, other than conventional virtues and a certain lack of trust in her guardians.

 

Although the novel is described as being based upon Hawthorne's time as a student at Bowdoin College, there's little of that evident except in the opening scene-setting (quite comic in its description of the different kinds of students), and possibly in the description of the studious and henpecked president of that college (Ellen's guardian) who may have some attributes of a real person. I should add that Hawthorne's habit of writing in bits of local colour "as they are now" - i.e., in his time, not in his historical setting - is a bit obtrusive in this novel, particularly at the end of the penultimate chapter, where we are yanked out of the flow of the narrative to visit the grave of the villain, all illegible and overgrown.

 

Still, it would have been a shame if Hawthorne had in fact succeeded in completely destroying all copies of this early effort. Almost two centuries later (it was published in 1828), it passed a tedious day in a happy fashion for this reader.

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text 2019-11-25 21:40
World Philosophy Day
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation - Seamus Heaney,Anonymous
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne,Nina Baym,Thomas E. Connolly
Far from the Madding Crowd (Signet Classics) - Thomas Hardy,Suzanne Keen

World Philosophy Day

Door 9:  World Philosophy Day

 

Task 1:  Share your reading philosophy with us – do you DNF? If so, do you have a page minimum to read before you declare it a DNF?

 

You all have been following me for how long now? I DNF. I also post reviews about why I DNFed and what percentage or page number too. I find those reviews helpful and wish more reviewers did it. I get why many don't though. You have to worry about a rampaging author sicking their followers on you nowadays.

 

I have tried to start DNFing books around 20 percent or so if I am not feeling it. There was that one time I DNFed a book 5 pages in, but I am sorry, you could not pay me to read "Far from the Madding Crowd". Some word set me off and that was it for me. 

 

Task 2: Share your reviewing philosophy with us – how do you rate a book? Do you have a mental template for reviewing? Rules you try to follow, or rules you try to break?

 

Well I tried to find the lat time I posted about how I rated books, but realized that disappeared during my great exodus from BL after my reviews all got messed up. I do have a template I try to follow when reviewing and also rating a book. I try to always do a quick summary up front of the things that worked/didn't work for me in the book. Then I did a short description of the book/characters/overall plot.

 

From there I dissect the book by characters (developed well or no? did the characters action make sense from what came before? Was it too information dumped driven for me to get certain characters?, etc.).


I next look at writing and flow. Writing is definitely subjective. However, I get annoyed at too much purple prose or overly descriptive writing. Just tell me what's going on and don't try to describe every blade of glass a character is seeing. Flow matters because sometimes chapters don't flow neatly into one another. It gets worse sometimes when an author is jumping around to multiple POVs.

 

The setting is important to talk about too. I like to say where it takes place, or a time period if it's especially important in the context of the book. Sometimes though I don't comment on this if it didn't move me one way or another.

The last part is the ending. Did the author stick the landing? Did they just throw out some crap and hope you were okay with it? Looking at you "Girl on the Train." 

 

So for me, this is how I rate:

 

5 stars (favorite): This means I would re-read this book again. That the characters, writing, flow, setting, ending all worked very well. That even if something was slightly off, I let it go to enjoy the book since so many other elements just kicked butt. 

 

4 stars: Still a really good book, but I often give books that missed something too much for me to enjoy. The big thing I start to focus on between 4 and 5 stars is that is there something that gnaws at me enough that I know I will slowly over time get annoyed if I re-read this book? If so, you are getting four stars. 

 

3 stars: A solid book. Not bad, just enough things that didn't work for me to go off and rave about it. It's okay if a book is 3 stars. 

 

2 stars: Not horrible, but enough problematic things going on that would have me hesitant to read the author again unless I saw reviews from others that showed me the book in question was good.

 

1 star: Nope. 

 

DNF: I usually 1 star these. It flat out just means I could not finish the book because either the characters, writing, etc. was too much for me to get pass. I call it, my brain got angry and I had to stop. 

 

Task 3: How do you stay zen / sane over the holidays or in other stressful periods?

 

I read. Seriously. I am trying to whittle down how many books I want to read during my break (starting Wednesday) and while in Honduras. Oh and I watch a lot of Christmas related movies. Not on Lifetime! I just love the cartoons. My total secret shame. I maybe re-watched "A Mickey Christmas Carol" this past weekend 10 times. And then Lady & the Tramp about 30 times (cough it was around 50). I ended up just decorating my house on Sunday cause I am just ready to move pass the terribleness and move into the season of hope and joy. I also work out and go hiking a lot during stressful periods. I finally worked out on Sunday after a week of not working out and my body may be sore, but I slept like a log. Nothing makes me feel rested like working out the day/evening before bed. 

 

Task 4: Did you love or hate the books you had to read for school? Looking back, which ones (good or bad) stand out to you the most?

 

I think for the most part I did love the books I read during school. I just wish they had been more diverse. We tended to not read any African American authors except during Black History Mouth. Stares at school systems in America as a whole. And forget reading authors from other countries. Actually, I want a do-over to this. I think the books were inadequate, but okay to read. I didn't hate them (I got to read Beowulf every freaking year during my high school English classes) but things started to get a little stale since we tended to read the same authors over and over again.

 

The ones that stand out the most are:

 

"Great Expectations." I still can't get over how much I wanted to shake Pip. We got the two endings to the book and we had to discuss the one we preferred. I preferred everyone dying off miserably cause they all kind of sucked, but I was fascinated by that book from beginning to end. 

 

"Of Mice and Men." That book from beginning to end depresses the life out of me. I just want them to start over somewhere else. That's it. Goes off to sob into a pillow.

 

"Beowulf." Not kidding. We always started off with this story during high school. I even did a group book report on it. I get it's supposed to show off the style of an Old English epic poem and all that jazz, but reading it once was enough. 

 

"Lord of the Flies." Yeesh. I got nothing to add here. I think I reviewed this.

 

"The Scarlet Letter." I got in trouble for asking what the big deal with with Hester having sex outside of her marriage. FYI, I got in trouble a lot during Sunday School. Fun times. 

 

Book: Read a book about philosophy or a philosopher, or a how-to book about changing

your life in a significant way or suggesting a particular lifestyle (Hygge, Marie Kobo, etc.).

 

[X]

 

Tasks Completed: 4

 

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review 2019-01-17 16:30
The House of the Seven Gables (Hawthorne)
The House of the Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Somehow I missed this during my omnivorous reading of the 19th century gothic in my undergraduate years. I read it now from the point of view of someone who distinctly resembles fractious, unsightly Hepzibah far more than the idealized "little woman" Phoebe (though perhaps I have always been more a Hepzibah than a Phoebe). In any case, the emphasis on Hepzibah's incapabilities and infirmities, and her constant scowl, was the one truly uncomfortable note for me in this otherwise delightful excursion into Hawthorne's extravagant and oratorical chessboard of symbols and motifs. I'm aware that Hepzibah's offputting scowl, which does not at all represent her actual mood or actual morals, is the counterpart of the Judge's false and beaming smile, and both are equally insisted upon beyond any reasonable requirement for description so as to force the careless reader to consider what they actually represent. But I must admit, at the umpteenth reference to the ugly Hepzibah scowl, I was provoked into growling, "oh just give it a rest, already, Nathaniel!" Subtlety - not his forte.

 

Chapter 18 is extraordinary writing. I started reading it in a slightly irritated mood, because it seemed that the author was going to take a simplistic trope (the narrator doesn't realize that Judge Pyncheon is dead) and just make a chapter out of it without doing much. Instead, it becomes an absolute symphony of rhetorical, imaginative expansion of the would-haves and could-haves surrounding the mundane fact of a nasty man dead of congenital heart failure in a decaying old house.

 

I have a very small and select folder on my Kindle called, "read but keeping". In goes The House of Seven Gables.

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text 2018-12-30 08:32
Clean Sweep for 2019
Daughters of the Lake - Wendy Webb
The Lingering - SJI Holliday
The House of the Seven Gables (Oxford World's Classics) - Michael Davitt Bell,Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World - Catherine Nixey
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The People in the Trees - Hanya Yanagihara
Elizabeth's Rival: The Tumultuous Life of the Countess of Leicester: The Romance and Conspiracy that Threatened Queen Elizabeth's Court - Nicola Tallis

For the New Year I have decided to make a clean sweep of all the books that I am currently 'reading'. It has been such a long time since I picked any of them up that I would have to start them again. So here goes, with Operation Cleansweep!

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