Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 6, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Call Me Zelda, Fallen Beauty
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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.…"
Sophia Peabody is a talented painter from a well known family in New England.  Her family is very interested in the arts and her parents push her to be artistic instead of falling into traditional female roles.  Sophia is plagued by severe migraines, but once she meets Nathaniel Hawthorne through her sister, she immediately feels a connection; in fact, her migraines become less and she finds much inspiration.   At first she isn't sure if she should allow herself to have feelings for the aspiring author since she thinks her sister may like him, but as time goes by, no one can deny their connection.  They plan to marry once he can figure out his finances and meanwhile, Nathaniel is striving to write the next big thing. Fans of Erika Robuck as well as historical fiction will be entertained by the story of Sophia and Nathaniel's marriage in The House of Hawthorne.

Sophia's childhood was definitely interesting since her parents are so unconventional. They support their daughter's artistic pursuits and downplay marriage, which is not the norm for the time.  I also felt that many people could relate to Sophia's struggle as a woman. She wants a family and to support Nathaniel, but what about her art? Should she sacrifice it all? Is it worth it? I think these questions many women still struggle with today.

Robuck did a great job bringing Nathaniel Hawthorne to life in The House of Hawthorne I enjoyed learning more about him and his life as well as his marriage. He is extremely introverted, so it was interesting to see how that played out in his social circles, which were filled with big names like Thoreau, Emerson, Melville, etc.   My only struggle with The House of Hawthorne was  with Nathaniel. He wasn't as captivating as I would have liked and sometimes I got frustrated with him.

I think Robuck made a wise choice to tell The House of Hawthorne through Sophia's eyes. Often in history, we forget about the woman that inspired the man or the woman working tirelessly behind the scenes. I loved how Robuck brought Sophia to the forefront. 

While I felt some of Robuck's previous novels, such as Hemingway's Girl, were a bit more captivating than this tale, I am still looking forward to reading more of her work in the future. I wonder which person from history she brings back to life next time? 


  1. I've wondered how this one would be, Christina; I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! I'm also glad you're back from your blogging break - ha! Welcome back! Hope you have a great day!

  2. This one sounds different, but interesting!

    1. I have always been interested in Nathaniel Hawthorne, so this book really intrigued me. Thanks for visiting!

  3. This sounds kind of interesting to me. It seems like the author likes to tell the stories of famous authors' wives. I don't know much about Hawthorne's personal life so I bet I'd learn a lot.

    Nancy Horan wrote a fascinating book about the relationship between Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife Fanny. It was intriguing to see the author's life and career through her eyes. She also struggled with balancing family and career ambitions.

    1. I did learn a lot and I appreciated that Roebuck told it from Sophia's point of view. I will have to check out Nancy Horan's book...sounds captivating and I am a fan of R.L. Stevenson! Thanks for visiting, Christina!


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