Original edition of The House of the Seven Gables
A few years back I picked up some cheap paperback classics and Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables was one.
I was supposed to have read The Scarlet Letter in High school, but I did not actually read it... I remember being bored to tears.... and we were shown a video production of the title from which I was able to glean enough info to pass the assignment without actually doing anything.
I routinely cheated myself in school like this... but as an adult went back to some of these things to see what I missed. ...Gables seemed more interesting to me as it was supposedly a classic ghost story and so I read that first.
It took me some time to adjust to it.
The novel is told in great detail and the plot moves at a glacial pace, compared to contemporary work, but this doesn't hurt the story as much as it sets it up.
We forget the pace of life circa 1851 when the novel was published, and it is impossible to fully appreciate it unless you open yourself up to a good SLOW read...
Once I got recognized this I started to really appreciate the rich details given to the characters, the layers of the plot aand savored the extraordinary use of language and skill at storytelling.
the challenge of slowing my mind down enough to have patience with a story like this was formidable. I became sharply aware of how much my attention span has eroded.
For younger readers this book will be almost impenetrable, and insufferable, as with my own Scarlet Letter experience in High School.
I had to keep a good dictionary by my side as I routinely ran in to words that I had never heard before. Half the fun for me was learning so many new and interesting words.
I would read the book out on my front porch in the early evening after work. And really looked forward to sitting out there and getting lost in it.
I found the book a wonderful story, with a glimpse into a lifestyle long vanished and mostly forgotten. It was a wonderful rewarding experience.
Interestingly, wikipedia notes that
"the novel was an inspiration for horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, who called it "New England's greatest contribution to weird literature" in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature. Seven Gables likely influenced Lovecraft's short stories The Picture in the House, The Shunned House and novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward."
Hawthorne himself observed "the wrongdoing of one generation lives into the successive ones and... becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief."