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The Marble Faun (Oxford World's Classics)
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The Marble Faun (Oxford World's Classics)

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  1,592 ratings  ·  84 reviews
The fragility-and the durability-of human life and art dominate this story of American expatriates in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Befriended by Donatello, a young Italian with the classical grace of the "Marble Faun," Miriam, Hilda, and Kenyon find their pursuit of art taking a sinister turn as Miriam's unhappy past precipitates the present into tragedy.
Hawthorn...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 7th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1860)
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Lorna
Aug 09, 2011 Lorna added it
I've just, finally, finished reading "The Marble Faun" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I now have some conception of what it feels like to have run a marathon dressed in full deep-sea diving gear. Zeus, what a tedious, turgid, overblown book. I chose it because it was listed in a book called "1001 books to read before you die" - but perhaps I misread the title and it was actually "1001 books that are only marginally better than actually being dead".

The style is thick and clotted, the plot lacking in...more
John
Zounds, what a boring book! And I usually like Hawthorne, but... Perhaps only a brilliant writer could craft a novel this dull and unsatisfying. Page after page of monotonous, pretentious pontificating ensue, as characters stand around doing nothing except complementing each other on their brilliance and/or beauty, or complaining endlessly about things that most normal people generally take in stride. All the intriguing aspects of the story are left unexplained in the end (except in a silly post...more
Nimue Brown
The Marble Faun is a gothic romance from the period when ‘romance’ meant ‘not as serious as a proper novel’. It’s a strange, moody tale with a lot of loose ends and uncertainty, which I think many modern readers would find difficult. However, I know I’m not the only one who enjoys that sort of thing.

It wasn’t written with an eye to posterity, which means a lot of checking foot notes is called for (get an edition with footnotes if you can, some commentary is helpful) as Hawthorn assumes you’ll ge...more
Dusty
Jun 14, 2009 Dusty rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dusty by: My 11th grade English textbook
Shelves: read-in-2009
In middle school you were probably assigned some kind of descriptive composition. You know, the kind where you pick a Classroom Object -- a pencil, a wad of gum, your English teacher's unconvincing toupee -- and you write about it for a couple hundred words, sparing no meticulous detail. You turn the composition in to your teacher, who underlines words that could be even more thoroughly expounded. Maybe you are told you need to incorporate all five senses: How does this Object smell? may have be...more
Linda
Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family lived for several years in Italy, and his experiences there inspired him to write The Marble Faun, or the Romance of Monte Beni. Published in 1860, it became his best selling novel, but few readers today have ever heard of it, much less read it. The book opens in 19th century Rome, where a group of friends, three American artistic types and one Italian, are enjoying an idyllic summer in each other's company. Donatello is a young Italian count, who very much res...more
Karen
I actually read this back in college, and loved it then. I still really like it, and enjoyed rereading it and following the mysteries of Miriam's and Donatello's pasts. This time, I was on a deadline and was not able to appreciate the long descriptive passages as I did the first time. It takes some imagination, but you can really begin to share the mindset of someone for whom reading was far more of a gateway to foreign places than it is today.

It was something of a shock to see how anti-Catholi...more
Bryn
I first came to Hawthorne through 'The Scarlet Letter' but this is undoubtedly my favourite of his. While most of his stories are set in America, this one follows a group of arty, bohemian types in Europe, sas they struggle along, fall in love with each other and generally get into difficulty. It's got a fabulously gothic sort of atmosphere, there's mystery, dark histories and a supernatural possibility that I loved. (Won't say to much, no spoilers). It's a gorgeous, darkly romantic and strange...more
Edward
Hawthorne's last completed novel, based on the year and a half he spent in Italy, is sporadically interesting, but it is never going to displace THE SCARLET LETTER as his masterpiece. Everyone has read, or is at least familiar with the story of Hester Prynne the Puritan woman, castigated for her sin of adultery by having to wear a scarlet letter A on her breast. The weight of "sin", as defined by a society, and the psychological implications of living in that society are explored in that novel....more
Donna
I loved this slow summer sojourn – a classic novel that unfolded gradually and beautifully. The Marble Faun is full of rich, atmospheric description that transports the reader instantly into the streets, the churches, the galleries, and the classical architecture of 19th-century Rome. Hawthorne is a masterful writer indeed. What could be more wholly Italian than a full paragraph devoted to a single sip of wine?

“Sipping, the guest longed to sip again; but the wine demanded so deliberate a pause,...more
Surreysmum
[These notes were made in 1983:]. I found this a very pleasant read, and with more substance than I anticipated from a preliminary brush through the first chapters. It was written in Italy, and abounds in that luxurious description of old artworks and older buildings which seems to overtake so many visitors to that country. In Hawthorne's case, it's done well, and linked in to the themes of the story. The old preoccupations - the effect of hidden sin - are all there, as the method of suggesting...more
Scott
The Marble Faun was a delightful read. Hawthorne's last published novel finds him at the zenith of his skill as a writer. One can tell that this is Hawthorne honed by decades of refining his craft. He is able to communicate with depth, and yet with a clarity that does not imprison you in a mire of verbose minutiae. Compare this with the dry reading of his collegiate venture, Fanshawe (which he later disowned), and his maturing process as a writer is clear. Having read the ponderous, solemn works...more
Ian
Donatello is an Italian count of a juvenile nature and a striking resemblance to a mythical faun captured in marble. He is in love with Miriam, a gifted painter, but a girl with a dark secret. In Rome they enjoy the company of two New Englanders - Kenyon, a sculptor who is in love with the other, Hilda, a talented copyist and as pure as the Virgin. A rash, murderous act changes all their lives.
A slight plot is fleshed out with anti-Catholic rhetoric, musings on the relative merits of two- and th...more
Stephen
Mad monks and marble skulls. Ruined castles and rustic revels. I love gothic horror and romance but this one barely makes the grade. Dealing with familiar Hawthorian themes of sin and redemption The Marble Faun is set in Rome and it's environs and concerns itself with a smart set of young artists visiting from New England. The author doesn't seem to think very highly of Catholics or the Italian "race" in general including the group's handsome young mascot, Donatello. The language is beautiful bu...more
Craig
Much like any work of art, this piece has multiple dimensions, some clear and defined, others less so, shrouded in mystery and dense, close, darkness, clouds of shadows encircling stumbles and mumbles of stone mingled with earthy patches of organic sensibility. Hawthorne wanders through this narrative with obviously symbolic characters, interspersed with malingering discourses on art and the influence of grave errors on the soul. His writing is sublime and efficient, but not spartan. The entire...more
Brenna
I read this because of the American-artists-in-Italy kick that I've been on, which stemmed from some research I am doing at work. It was particularly interesting from that perspective--what Italy represented for American artists of a certain era. I'm moving on to some Mark Twain and Henry James that deal with similar issues, and I'm interested to see how they compare.
Tamara
Hawthorne has a very poetic love language and a lot of renaissance visuals in this book. I love where I go when I read the pages.(And having spent some time in Italy allows this book to be a lovely escape from my now hectic world.)
Jason Reeser
A wonderful book. I was captivated by it immediately. Far better than Hawthorne's "Gables" or "Scarlet Letter". I never understand why no one ever mentions this book.
Rick
The Marble Faun is a novel that is also part travelogue and part art philosophy with a fair amount of religious rumination tossed in for good measure. The novel part follows three young artists and their young Italian companion in Rome. The American male, Kenyon, is a sculptor, a pragmatic man, devout but at a distance, and in love with one of the two American women. Both women are painters, one pure and very devoted to her Puritan faith and to the genius of Italian painters like Raphael, and th...more
Ellie
What can I say? I love Hawthorne.
Ellie NYC
Mireya
Amazing travel companion when visiting Rome!
Krisette Spangler
The Marble Faun is a brilliantly constructed romance that has many elements of a Christian allegory. Hawthorne's language is so rich and beautiful, but you must be patient as he sets his story up for its dramatic climax. The story takes place in Rome and Tuscany, and I enjoyed revisiting all of the places I saw while I was there through the eyes of the author. It seemed to me the novel was the author's forum to describe how much he loved the beauties of Italy, and the story was secondary. I mark...more
Natalie
It was a slow read, but one I enjoyed.

Warning: there is a lot of description, something Nathaniel Hawthorne is pretty infamous for in his writings.

I think I read somewhere that this book also doubled as a travel guide to Rome of sorts as he was a tourist in Europe for years. I definitely got that impression when reading the book.

The transformation of Donatello, and Miriam's and his feelings towards each other changing throughout the book in response to this transformation, was well done. Hilda...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
I loved Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables; I thought both had brilliant characters and writing. In the case of Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter, I loved her strength and abiding compassion. And in The House of Seven Gables I loved the old maid Hepzibah and her cousin Phoebe. I got through Blithedale Romance and found the character Zenobia fascinating at first, although disappointing in the end. I even got through Fanshawe, a none-too-good first novel Hawthorne disow...more
Danika
Ever enamored of the Old World, I cannot help but enjoy stories from the perspective of American expatriates, no matter what the plot and characters dropped into that motif. Hawthorne’s authorial view in particular, as a descendent of the first (witch-burning) Puritans, living just after the Revolution, is especially interesting, in that his staunch patriotism leads him to be highly critical of everything not quite American—Catholicism, having a history going further back than can be reliably tr...more
Marija
I really like Hawthorne’s writing. He wrote two of my favorite works. But for me, The Marble Faun is missing something.

The good: Hawthorne makes some really good insights here...exposing the irony of art and situation...what might really go on behind the scenes when creating a piece of art or sculpture, and how this might affect one’s perceptions and reception of the art, especially if the piece of art has a religious theme. Also interesting is his portrayal of the loss of innocence and its effe...more
John Lucy
Hawthorne goes ouch. I had read some commentary on this book prior to reading it, none of it was very flattering. Going into the reading of this romance, then, I thought that my low expectations might produce a more favorable opinion of this, Hawthorne's last major attempt. Unfortunately, even with my low expectations, I was sorely disappointed. If you love Hawthorne, you may be able to stomach this book as I did; if you only like him, then don't ruin your respect for him by reading Marble Faun;...more
Jennie
There's better Hawthorne out there, but since I like Hawthorne, and I'm a Latin teacher, I couldn't very well pass up the only book he wrote that's set in Rome. Strangely enough, I found this to be a very soothing book. It's supposed to be all about romance and murder and other sorts of bosom-heaving drama, but I was able to sit back and detach and enjoy the flowery language and be mildly amused by all the intrigue, and just enjoy it. (Why I wasn't able to do this with Tom Jones, who knows?) Peo...more
Sarah
I'd call it Diet-Blithedale-Romance. In much the same way you'd call Daisy Miller, Diet-Portrait-of-a-Lady. You get the spice, the branding, but it's less sugary and fattening, so the flavor is also just a little...off. I might also call it masturbatory, but the book itself is so chaste, it would be gratuitous. So I'll settle with "self-indulgent." In The Marble Faun, Hawthorne returns to his most self-indulgent theme: transgression. Ever interested in wrongs, and wronging and like naughty behav...more
Faith Bradham
All right, as much as I generally dislike Hawthorne, something must be said for the labyrinthine and unendingly depressing nature of this darkly romantic plot (enough adjective in that sentence for you?). True to Hawthorne's nature, The Marble Faun's characters are frustrated at every twist and turn, and the overall feeling of the novel is one of suffocation and anguish. I personally find it hard to handle this kind of frustrating, suffocating novel, but this is Hawthorne at the height of his ab...more
Richard Epstein
Johnson said of one of Congreve's works, "I had rather praise it than read it." I feel that way about Hawthorne generally, this work perhaps in particular. It is a work which, like its author, I respect, but while there are books I haven't read yet, I shall never read this one again -- not unless someone pays me to.
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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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