Summary from the Publisher:
Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman’s traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia’s vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children’s needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia’s energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.
Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature…
From the moment I started reading The Scarlett Letter in high school, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlett Letter has remained my favorite of his novels, I’ve enjoyed studying his work. It was a happy day when I learned that Erika Robuck was writing a novel about his wife and their marriage. I pre-ordered The House of Hawthorne as soon as I could. Last week I couldn’t hold off any longer and picked it up to read.
The more work I read by Erika Robuck, the more I am drawn to the way she weaves themes into her writing. As with Call Me Zelda, the faith of her heroine colors her life and adds depth to the story. What made Sophie interesting to me was her views of Catholicism and her openness hypnosis and seances. This made her complex and so very human. What sticks out the most to me, however, was what the novel says about the nature of sacrifice and what it means to give creative life to the world. I read and reread the beautiful passage where Sophie addresses the sacrifices she made.
The House of Hawthorne is a gentle read. As I read the story of Sophie’s young life and the long road to her marriage to Nathaniel Hawthorne, it was so pleasant to read an old fashioned romance. Sophie was frustrated alternately by her devastating headaches and by Nathaniel’s desire to be perfect and make life perfect for his beloved before marrying her. Neither wanted to the other to compromise who they were or what they valued in marriage. In a time when female artists like Sophie were encouraged to blaze their own path through life without marriage or family, the two Hawthornes faced an uphill battle from family and peers alike. They found happiness together, but not without cost.
I have enjoyed each and every one of Erika Robuck’s novels. While The House of Hawthorne didn’t unseat Call Me Zelda as my favorite, I found this novel to be rich in content and so relaxing to read. The way that Robuck approached their engagement and marriage emphasized how special their lives together were. This book was the perfect antidote to the upheaval of a new school year and new family activities. As time allowed, I could sink back into their world and journey. Even when times were bleak for the Hawthrones, I found rest from my chaotic life with them. Throughout, The House of Hawthorne is a charming look at the life of an extraordinary American couple. It the perfect read for a chilly day. Sit back with a warm drink and enjoy.