The Blithedale Romance
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The Blithedale Romance

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  2,969 ratings  ·  206 reviews
The Blithedale Romance, considered one of Hawthorne's major novels, explores the limitations of human nature set against an experiment in communal living. From mesmerism to illicit love, The Blithedale Romance represents one of Hawthorne's best and most sharply etched works, one that Henry James called his "brightest" and "liveliest" novel, and that Roy Male, acclaimed Ame...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 14th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1852)
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Kirk
Flat out my favorite Hawthorne, though I end up teaching THE SCARLET LETTER a lot more. This is probably his one work that feels very contemporary, what with the commune setting and the very relevant gender dynamics. The characters are at once stock figures and yet somehow deeply real: Miles, the proto-Nick Carraway; Priscilla, the "light" girl; the monomaniacal Hollingsworth; and, of course, Zenobia, the "dark" woman and ambiguous symbol of feminism. Part of what makes this one fun is that you...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.25* of five

I read this as part of the RL book circle's festivities. I can't really say I enjoyed it, though I admired it. I thiink I learned a lot from it...for example, there is no new idea anywhere under the sun. Hawthorne (really? no touchstone for Hawthorne?!) wrote of such familiar characters to any modern reader, the creepy pseudo-spiritual control freak, the conflicted feminist, the wishy-washy eternal follower, that it really feels like the book could have been written yesterda...more
Lbsantini
The more I read Hawthorne, the more I like him--the person I believe him to have been. He has a nice bite, as evidenced by the following passage, narrated by Coverdale (who is equated with Hawthorne)that made me cackle aloud:

"While our enterprise lay all in theory, we had pleased ourselves with the delectable visions of the spiritualization of labor. It was to be our form of prayer and ceremonial worship. Each stroke of the hoe was to uncover some aromatic root of wisdom, heretofore hidden from...more
Laura
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Page 5:
The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one's self a fool; the truest heroism is to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom to know when it ought to be resisted, and when to be obeyed.

Page 29:
"When, as a consequence of human improvement," said I, "the globe shall arrive at its final perfection, the great ocean is to be converted into a particular kind of lemonade, such as was fashionable at...more
Maureen
the three stars are all for the consummate writing skill that hawthorne commands, but with this novel i've come to realize i don't really like his novels. i like his short stories, and i think he was attracted to that form, in his time a new one that he helped define in the US, because i feel he chafed against the conventions of the novel in his day. as with what i experienced in reading the house of the seven gables, the prose of the blithedale romance is dense, molasses thick, and while artful...more
John David
After reading “The Scarlet Letter” years ago in school, and now “The House of Seven Gables” and “The Blithedale Romance” in relatively close conjunction, there seems to be a common theme running throughout much of Hawthorne’s longer fiction: namely, the deep and abiding mistrust in ideas of utopia, progress or perfectibility, especially of the human kind. Hawthorne came from a long line of Puritans, one of whom even presided over some of the Salem witch trials. Now writing on the cusp of the Civ...more
Bob
Although the most singular thing about the book is its setting in, and critique of, a New England Transcendentalist utopian community of the mid-19th century, of just the sort Hawthorne was briefly associated with, it is also very much a somewhat melodramatic story typical of its era, with misplaced love, misunderstood parentage and other such confusions which are gradually revealed. Not that the portrayal of middle-class idealists who don't know which way to hold a hoe trying to get "back to th...more
John
This book started out with so much promise, it makes me sad that it ended up falling so short of the mark. It began with some surprisingly modern themes, but did very little to make good use of them. The whole story is told first-person by a very unlikable and unreliable narrator, an elitist young man who thinks of himself as being very clever (although he loses every intellectual debate he opens his mouth in) and heroic (although he becomes very ill almost immediately and is constantly plagued...more
Sarah Sammis
I fell in love with Hawthorne's books and short stories when I was in junior high school. Twenty years later he continues to be on my list of top ten favorites. His novels strike me as incredibly modern and relevant to modern day life.

The Blithedale Romance has many elements in common with the much sillier novel Tommy's Tale by Alan Cumming. The events at Blithedale (a commune in the woods) are laid out in chronological order by Miles Coverdale who proves to be as unreliable a narrator as Tommy...more
Sarah
I read it for my English class. I can't say it was terrible, but, stylistically, I wan't into it. I'm not too into Romantic literature.

There are a few interesting parts, but on the whole I never really identified with any of the characters. I suppose the premise is interesting: the story of a utopia called Blithedale, and the ways in which people morph themselves to fit this new life. Perhaps it's one of those cases where the idea is better than the actual thing? I don't know, all of it is just...more
Timmy
Never did so many dependent clauses sound as sweet as a flute----a lovely display of language, dark romanticism, humor, and depth---the combination of which carried me away to higher loves, cavernous chills, and laughter. Indeed, how joyous to find this manifestation of a character that feels both idealism and cynicism so deeply, to which one thrives and grows by its relationship to the other. And from it, a deep beauty that captures that glimpse of the eternal, of essence behind form, of primor...more
Christine
I read this book for a class I am taking currently on the Transcendentalists and their contemporaries. I was resistant to reading it at first, but found that I really liked Hawthorne. He is a very skilled writer, and it had a great, surprise ending. Since it is based slightly on Hawthorne's experiences with Brook Farm, it gives an interesting point of view as to why he believes it failed.
Adam
Hawthorne tells the story of a New England commune. As one would expect, it is at first filled with high social ideals and grand utopian hopes. But it gradually disintegrates—not due to external pressures, avarice, or the limitations of socialist economics, but due to the force of personal relationships and histories. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the novel is that it reifies this disintegration by shifting its own narrative into gothic melodrama. Mysterious histories and hidden relatio...more
Shelby Quintal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily
Victorian-era hippies converge on a Massachusetts' farm and try their hand at communal living. Sort of.

For about two-thirds of this book I'd have rated it three stars. However, in the last slice, it grew suddenly and wondrously more interesting. The timing of the plot warming coincided with when the narrator left Blithedale farm.

The endlessly introspective thoughts and observations of the narrator were prosaic, but wearisome. Little happened to advance the plot in the first almost two hundred pa...more
Amanda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nola
I'm still chewing on this Hawthorne novel, the first I've read since my attack on the Scarlet Letter in high school. Granted, I was immature then, but based on what I remember of the former, I preferred the love triangle of Blithedale to the life of Hester Prynne (though one of these days I'll reread and so may rejudge).

I enjoyed Hawthorne's writing style - his languid sentences, his beautiful imagery, his appropriate symbolism. I found the characters intriguing and interesting, and like any sta...more
Jane

An odd little story that I LOVED. It's creepy, dark, and intriguing. Hawthorne is brilliant!

The characters aren't really likeable, but in context of the narration it makes them even more intriguing, as we see them only through Coverdale's unreliable lens.

Hawthorne creates a lot of layers, giving enough clues as you are going that you start to draw conclusions. And yet after reading the end and looking back I noticed details that I hadn't before, and suddenly things became so blatant. (I feel l...more
Philip Lane
I felt this fairly short novel was rather melodramatic. It claimed an air of mystery and drama where very little existed. The narrator touches on a number of topics but none of them really get a proper airing. The idea of communal living is central in the first half of the book but the narrator spends most of the time sick in bed so we get very little view of how the commune works. He feels that people who have arrived are mysterious but never seems to ask who they are or how they come to be the...more
K.M. Weiland
To put it mildly, Hawthorne can be a bit of a slog. And I was definitely prepared for that with this lesser known work. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. Not only is it a faster paced, less obtuse work than some he's done, it's also a delightfully Gothic mystery and an interesting commentary on philanthropy and utopianism. It's certainly not as memorable as The Scarlet Letter, but it's a nice little read.
Mark
This is Hawthorne’s writing at its best. The love triangle (quadrangle really) at the center of the plot is pretty standard, but Hawthorne’s carefully wrought sentences elevate the book to another plane. The characterizations are memorable, and the book’s settings in a 19th century Utopian community, based on the actual Brook Farm commune where Hawthorn resided for a season, gives it added interest. I listened to the Librivox free audio book. I found that listening to this as an audio book helpe...more
Nanci Svensson
Thanks, Reese. I could definitely identify a coherent narrative in this novel, and I am also very interested in both the experiments with communal living attempted in the 1900s, and in the dynamics of how "cultish" behavior develops. Zenobia represents a type of woman that I actively make sure not having to interact with, so I had some problems with her character, but that's not Hawthorne to blame for. "It's not Hawthorne, it's me..." He pretty much nailed the personality in his description of h...more
Jordan
I read this in October 2012 for my American Lit class. Along with the short stories "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil," The Blithedale Romance truly immersed me in Hawthorne. After reading some critical analyses of Hawthorne's work I have become more interested in his style and techniques through the narrative persona of ambiguity and subtle anxiousness.
Andrew
While the plot structure is standard early American fiction and the character development could use an infusion of depth, what really makes this book sing is its narrative structure. I'm a sucker for unreliable narrators, and Miles Coverdale is one of the best examples of this kind of storytelling.
SarahC
This was an interesting mix. It is light, mysterious and tragic all in one. I plan to read more of Hawthorne, whom I have previously avoided. His use of words is beautiful.
Jocelyne Lebon
Methought this novel should get at least 5 stars for the preciousness of the language.
Deviny
i'm not really sure what i learned from this...
Kathy Davidson
This book has a very slow start. Coverdale narrates the story as he discovers the personalities around him. Hawthorne wrote this book about a commune like the one he lived in around 1840. He weaves a tale of philosophical thinking and disillusionment. Coverdale refuses to give himself to the completing another man's dream, and yet another character Zenobia commits suicide because this same man won't let her commit her whole existence to the cause. (well she loves him and he refuses her).
In the e...more
Chris Chester
I have a complicated relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Like many, my first introduction to his prose was reading The Scarlet Letter in a high school English class. That experience in itself is attached to strange memories, not least of which were my teacher's strong insinuations about the novel's romantic undertones, which she blithely related to her own late-blooming sexual affairs.

So when I say that I walk away from The Blithedale Romance unsure whether I like Hawthorne or hate him, it's...more
Casey
The Blithedale Romance is the story of Miles Coverdale and his summer living at the commune-like community of Blithedale Farm. They spend their days working on the small farm, hoping to realize the efforts of living simply without the involvement of society. He befriends three important characters, Hollingsworth, Zenobia, and Priscilla, and a love “square” develops. Hollingsworth is the natural leader of the community and greatly devoted to prison and criminal reform; Zenobia is wealthy and beau...more
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Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th century American novelist and short story writer. He is seen as a key figure in the development of American literature for his tales of the nation's colonial history.

Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin College, Hathorne changed his name to Hawthorne. Hawthorne anonymously published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828. In 1837, he published Twice-Told T...more
More about Nathaniel Hawthorne...
The Scarlet Letter The House of the Seven Gables Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories Young Goodman Brown The Minister's Black Veil

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“No summer ever came back, and no two summers ever were alike. Times change, and people change; and if our hearts do not change as readily, so much the worse for us.” 61 likes
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