The House of Hawthorne

Written by Erika Robuck
Review by Caroline Wilson

Erika Robuck has built her career on dramatizing the lives of America’s artistic greats. In The House of Hawthorne, she delves into the story of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, wife to the storied writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

When the novel opens, Sophia is reminiscing about the recuperative trip to Cuba that changed her world in many ways. Overwhelmed by migraines and her artistic sensibilities, she has been coddled by her family, and protected from the typical rigors of womanhood. At 24, Sophia is not expected to marry; in fact, her mother cautions her against it and the inevitability of childbirth. Yet she cannot deny her passionate nature, and though she nurses a fondness for a local planter’s son, she cannot commit to a life supported by the harsh realities of slavery. She returns to Massachusetts reborn in some ways, desperate for attention and affection. She soon meets Nathaniel Hawthorne and they marry after a prolonged courtship.

Erika Robuck brings the mid-19th century vividly to life. Her prose is lush but not burdened by unnecessary details. She has a real knack for capturing the dreamy voice of Sophia, which lends a great deal to the novel, given that it is narrated in first person. The reader can easily see why Sophia and Nathaniel were drawn together. In reading their letters to one another and other family members, it is a pleasure to see how much in love they were with each other, especially at a time when convenience often overruled tender feelings. Despite hardships, their love for each other never falters, which makes the ending of the novel all the more poignant. Historical fiction readers and enthusiasts of the great age of 19th-century American literature will enjoy The House of Hawthorne. Recommended.