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The Blithedale Romance

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  3,545 ratings  ·  237 reviews
One of Nathaniel Hawthorne s great romances, "The Blithedale Romance" draws upon the author s experiences at Brook Farm, the short-lived utopian community where Hawthorne spent much of 1841. Blithedale ( Happy Valley ), another would-be modern Arcadia, is the stage for Hawthorne s grimly comic tragedy (Henry James famously called the novel the lightest, the brightest, the ...more
Paperback, 254 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Belknap Press (first published 1852)
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Debbie Zapata
I usually start my book selections without reading about them or about the authors, but this time I read the Wiki entry for Nathaniel Hawthorne before beginning The Blithedale Romance. I cannot decide if that was a good idea or a spoiler. This book was based on his own short time spent in the utopian community known as Brook Farm, but when I read the article about his life and a separate article about the community, I was surprised to see that he did not believe in the enterprise, he had simply ...more
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
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
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
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
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
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
This novel made me think of Shakespeare's so-called "problem plays" with their uneasy mixture of light and dark themes . Hawthorne's third novel mixes satiric and tragic moods and they don't fully merge either. Here, the narrator, Miles Coverdale, a self-satisfied bachelor who likes his comfort and his drinks, sets out on a summer's sojourn to Blithedale, a back-to-the-land commune. But he can quickly become serious, looking forward to getting away from the "falsehood,, formality, and error, lik ...more
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
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
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
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
This remains one of the finest examples of literature, not just of the 19th century but of all time. Actually, I don't know if that's true, but I do know that I researched Brook Farm like crazy after reading this book, and I had an unbridled enthusiasm for months to come about communes, and starting one. One day, I proclaimed to anyone who would listen, I would make that dream of a utopian intellectual society REAL, dammit! Then I realized I knew nothing about farming, and I really liked Dunkin ...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.
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.
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.
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

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
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
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
Rhonda Keith
It's rare for me to go back to the classic early American authors but I read that The Blithedale Romance was loosely based on Hawthorne's experience at Brook Farm. It wasn't quite what I expected. It was more a "romance" in the sense of being (more like fairy tales where people find redemption in symbolic situations).

This was my favorite passage, and more like what I expected.

"In truth, it was dizzy work, amid such fermentation of opinions as was
going on in the general brain of the Community.
Sitting on our plate our two ovaloids: One is a small, bitter pill; the other is a cheezpuff. If the plate were bigger we might find room for other ovaloid intermediaries, but for now we can learn much about our diet from studying these two. In the cheezpuff lies most of our excuses for modern literature, and in the tough little pill is Hawthorne.

The Blithedale Romance is both the best and worst work by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and at any rate the most Hawthornean of his novels, the one which best a
Anna C
Ah, "The Blithedale Romance." I have a long and tumultuous history with this book.

Back in high school, "Blithedale" was our summer reading assignment for 11th grade. Even though most of us read and enjoyed "The Scarlet Letter" later that year, "Blithedale" and the entire transcendentalist movement attracted our scorn. In fact, we hated this book so much that when I posted my reading list back on my old senior class Facebook page, I only had to sit back and watch the likes roll in.

At the time, I
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.
Let me just say - my opinion of this book has improved drastically as I have been trying to figure out what happened for the last 48 hours! I can't stop thinking about it! New theories that explain the events keep coming to mind, and I can't figure out to which I subscribe. And now, I am convinced this is one of the best mystery stories that I have ever read.

Let me backup a bit...I began reading this book because I was curious about what I thought of Hawthorne apart from "The Scarlet Letter." I
Clément Hossaert
Made by a visionary writer hellbent on denouncing the hypocrisy and the madness of the times of yore, Blithedale Romance is a cautionary tale, a proto-feminist version of the Pastorale topos, while also being one of the most interesting study of a four-character huis clos in which the narrator isn't the centerpiece, but definitely worth analyzing. As a 1852 novel written in the midst of the birth of yet another patriarchal nation, the character of Zenobia and Hollingsworth will keep you thinking ...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 about Nathaniel Hawthorne...

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