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The House of the Seven Gables (Oxford World's Classics)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2014
Adhering stubbornly to his styling of them as Romances, Hawthorne's remarkable novel is one of American literature's seminal achievements, perhaps an allegory of the White Man's settlement. No wonder he and Melville were mutually admiring: while the latter was worrying that there might be no or perhaps a malign God, Hawthorne (whose ancestor was one of those who condemned the Salem 'witches') is possessor of a sense of Evil very unusual at any time, the story is redolent of it. The powerful Pynchon usurps the lowly Matthew Maule and Fate then begins its awful march. In a relatively short course - he was a master of the short story too - the dark house thus established, the Pynchons and others, lively characters somehow a little crushed, live in the shadow of this impressive, brooding house. And inevitably, an awful denouement works out, following an appalling curse issuing from the mouth of the wronged Maule. Taking in a masterly chapter, (I will not identify it), that manages a trick less drastic but more apropos than Georges Perec did in writing a book with no letter 'e' this is a brilliant study in Justice, beginning with those words that ring in my ears now. The style is lapidary and exact and no-one wishing to appreciate American culture can miss him. In my view this is superior even to 'The Scarlet Letter' though you must read them both as well as his pathos-ridden, powerful short stories. A striking achievement.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2005
150 years ago, on the site of the house of the old Pyncheon family in Providence, New England, lived one Mathew Maule in a log-built hut who was executed for the crime of witchcraft. Before dying, Maule uttered a prophecy to Colonel Pyncheon: "God will give him blood to drink."
Villagers could not understand that Pyncheon wanted to build his house over the unquiet grave of the dead wizard Maule and why he should prefer this site that had already been accursed in all the vastness of New England. At any rate the house was built in the grotesqueness of Gothic fancy with seven gables pointing sharply to the sky. On the day of the ceremony of consecration of the house, Colonel Pyncheon suddenly died and some said that Maule's prophecy could be heard throughout the house spoken in a loud voice...
From father to son, the family clung to the ancestral house with tenacity. Bu Mathew Maule's prophecy seems to have planted a heavy footstep on the conscience of the Pyncheons as though they committed again the guilt of their ancestor thus inheriting a great misfortune.
An impressive novel in which an old house itself is the major character. The story is filled with contrasts and oppositions between the dark and gloomy interior of the house and the bright and sunlit exterior. Shadow is the atmosphere of the invisible world of evil, of the past hidden in the recesses of the old mansion. As one follows the lives of Hepzibah, Phoebe and Clifford, one realises that the human fates of the present times are closely linked to the web of the past.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.'
What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever." -- Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Before commenting on the book, let me mention that I've always found it hard to get into. This time I listened to a reading by Donalda Peters and it made all the difference. Give it a try!

The Old Testament tells us that crimes can carry curses into future generations. Hawthorne examines that theme by having Colonel Pyncheon acquire the property of one Mathew Maule through Maule being found guilty of witchcraft in colonial Salem, Massachusetts. On the land was built the House of Seven Gables, and the consequences of the original action certainly seem to singe and tinge the current generation in a variety of ways. Rather than make this just a Biblical tale, Hawthorne beautifully investigates the questions of nature versus nurture in determining character and what choices are made.

Much of the story is told through the use of extended irony of the sort that's found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It's very well written and compelling.

Those who don't like dark stories should realize that there's a special beauty in certain kinds of darkness. And, too, weeping may endure for a night, but joy can come in the morning. Love can conquer quite a lot.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 September 2007
In Hawthorne's times, wealth and power were vested in landownership.
In this book, a conflict about landownership is solved in favour of a member of the powerful by incriminating of witchcraft and executing the poor owner of a hut. `Clergymen, judges, statesmen stood in the inner circle round about the gallows loudest to applaud the work of blood.'
But the innocent victim utters a prophecy on the scaffold: `God would give them blood to drink.'
The wrongdoing becomes a curse for all generations to come. They will be `slaves of bygone times.'

The House of the Seven Gables, the expression of that odious Past, stands for `what we call real estate - the solid ground to build a house on it - is the broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of the world rests.'
One of the main characters, the Judge, represents the respectability of Puritanism. But he is in fact a selfish, iron-hearted hypocrite, greedy of wealth. He is a member of the schemers: `practiced politicians skilled to adjust those measures which steal the people the power of choosing its own rulers.'
As in `The Scarlet Letter', Nathaniel Hawthorne exposes in this book forcefully the Phariseism of the Puritans and the powerful. It culminates in a very surprising and highly dramatic end.

Not to be missed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2014
Nothing happens! Am on page 196 and praying for anything to happen. Only decided to read it because I visited the house it was based on in Salem. The house is amazing and very much as described in the book. Keeping fingers crossed a storyline might pop in this book somewhere!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2013
A gift for my auntie, she was very happy with it. A reasonable price, good quality and reasonable postage x
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 1999
If you want a fast paced action thriller, then rent a movie. This book has depth and meaning that only the "true" classics have. If you're into thinking for yourself and seeing a wonderful story unfold in your mind then this book is for you. And by the way, this can be understood by teenagers- I was 19 when I read it. I think the awful reviews are written by people with a lack of character, or perhaps maturity.
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