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The Blithedale Romance

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  4,210 Ratings  ·  304 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 l ...more
Paperback, 254 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Belknap Press (first published 1852)
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Debbie Zapata
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gutenberg
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
Cindy Newton
Hawthorne's mellifluous voice is clearly recognizable here, but I did not like this as much as The Scarlet Letter. Coverdale, as a narrator, is a passive presence and at times is somewhat of a creeper. He is ultimately outside the circle of true action and from his own account, never accomplishes much of anything with his life. The other characters are difficult to get a true fix on due to the unreliability of Coverdale's reportage.

There are some insightful psychological observations made, but
...more
Richard Derus
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
David Huff
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mankind has always had, and will always have, a penchant for utopian dreams of one sort or another. It may be that the frustrations of living in an imperfect world cause some to seek a new way of life, by forming a community of like-minded optimists, to live closer to the earth and pursue common ideals. The Blithedale Romance is a story of such a community -- and a reminder that achieving heaven on earth will always be beyond our reach.

Nathaniel Hawthorne experienced this setting in real life,
...more
Kirk
Dec 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Lbsantini
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Genni
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*This review contains some spoilers*

Well, this was an odd piece of work. This was my first Hawthorne, and while his writing made me want to read his other books, this particular book left me....I don't know. I finished it with interest, but at the same time, I felt removed.

Hawthorne begins with a disclaimer: that the events and people were not based on real life. Since everyone knew of his time at Brook Farm (a Utopian socialist community), this naturally caused everyone to be especially attune
...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
Thomas
I loved the prose style and the ambiguity of Miles Coverdale, the narrator, who is aptly named. The narrative arc is not atypical of romance, but the novel turns out to be more of a psychological portrait of Coverdale than a finely polished example of the genre. I started the book with the idea that it would be a comment on the Brook Farm commune popularized by 19th century American transcendentalism, and maybe it is in a very subtle way, but I found myself stretching to make a finding on that c ...more
Maureen
Dec 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
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
Bob
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Edward
May 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Sammis
Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released
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
John
Dec 22, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: high-drama
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
Adam
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sara
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
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Andrew
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Janis Arteaga Ai-V8
i like everyting of this book
Miles Smith
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In his most autobiographical work, Hawthorne takes aim not at his ancestors but at the utopian reformers that populated mid-nineteenth century New England. The work presents a scathing indictment of faddish intellectualism rooted in the breakdown of the Calvinist socio-cultural milieu that defined New England in the colonial and Early Republic era. The work's protagonist, Miles Coverdale, serves as narrator and avatar for an obviously disillusioned but quickened Hawthorne.
Rose
Apr 29, 2017 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a fan of Hawthorne, and this isn't his best book, but the description of the Utopian experiment at Blithedale is interesting historically. But I'm not going to drag myself through the whole book!
Rosemarie
The story of the experiment of Blithedale farm is really the story of four characters, none of which is fully fleshed out. Hawthorne writes well, but the plot of this novel is lacking substance.
Laura Leilani
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
How could such an interesting subject be made into such a dull tale?
Shelby Quintal
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ashley Adams
Idealism in America dependent on detachment from society (and reality, a bit). This one has a troublesome character arc and an obnoxious narrator, but it is a fun read.
Amanda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
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