“Hope N said: 4 stars
Didn’t Like It
“I wanted to like this book. I really did! Reading the description – four friends: three of them the foreigners and one Italian living together in Italy, Rome mainly. Artists pursuing their dreams about creating the real art in the place most suitable for it – in the Eternal City. And of course...”see full review » see other reviews »
“I wanted to like this book. I really did! Reading the description – four friends: three of them the foreigners and one Italian living together in Italy, Rome mainly. Artists pursuing their dreams about creating the real art in the place most suitable for it – in the Eternal City. And of course love, and of course mystery…
I was bored almost to tears. Even the descriptions of Italian art and architecture (which I admire so much) weren’t enough to save the three-star rating.
“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 disowned. But Fanshawe was little more than a hundred pages, and the other two novels two hundred odd pages--The Marble Faun is 402 pages, and by page 150, I was feeling it was going on forever.
Mind you, I rather loved Miriam--rather rare to have a strong female Jewish character in 19th Century fiction. Perhaps Hawthorne took a page from Sir Walter Scott's Rebecca in Ivanhoe? For that matter it was refreshing to see two women artists who were living--and making a living--independently. But then Hawthorne rather reversed that strong depiction of women with passages like this:
Hilda’s faculty of genuine admiration is one of the rarest to be found in human nature; and let us try to recompense her in kind by admiring her generous self-surrender, and her brave, humble magnanimity in choosing to be the handmaid of those old magicians, instead of a minor enchantress within a circle of her own.
The handmaid of Raphael, whom she loved with a virgin’s love! Would it have been worth Hilda’s while to relinquish this office for the sake of giving the world a picture or two which it would call original; pretty fancies of snow and moonlight; the counterpart in picture of so many feminine achievements in literature!
Riiight. That's how we should describe Hawthorne's distaff contemporaries Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot--as writers of pretty fancies of snow and moonlight who'd have done better to be handmaidens to their better halves. I heard that song before with Zenobia. And many of the descriptions of Rome and of the art is lovely--but what does it say that I found such digressions more interesting than the main narrative so transparently about a modern retelling of the Fall of Adam. And if how Hawthorne depicts Jews is commendable for his time, how he portrays Catholics is just abominable--even if understandable for his time. And worst of all is the "marble faun" of the story, Donatello. If ever a metaphor was overdone...
So, yeah, count me as not a fan of this.”
“Making tracks through my 1001 books to read before I die list.”Bonnie Endicott wrote this review Monday, January 28, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Hope N said: 4 stars
The back cover of this novel claims it to be a must-read "for anyone who relishes crimes of passion set against the picturesque details of Old World landmarks" and I have to agree. This book takes us out of Hawthorne's native New England and drops us smack in the middle of Rome, a rich background for this novel about the loss of innocence. The novel, one of Hawthorne's later ones contains a great deal of wisdom and understanding for its characters and their trials.”
“The back cover of this novel claims it to be a must-read "for anyone who relishes crimes of passion set against the picturesque details of Old World landmarks" and I have to agree. This book takes us out of Hawthorne's native New England and drops us smack in the middle of Rome, a rich background for this novel about the loss of innocence. The novel, one of Hawthorne's later ones contains a great deal of wisdom and understanding for its characters and their trials.”Hope N wrote this review Wednesday, April 14, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I know many people consider this Hawthorne's finest work, and I am able to see why they do, but I don't agree. It's too long and slow for that. But it is intriguing, and a well-written story. It seems somewhat over-padded with descriptions of things that have very little to do with the story.
The story is three young Americans and their friend, an Italian count, in Rome. The vibrant, outgoing Miriam is a painter with originality and style, but emotionally very mercurial. She is a rather voluptuous and very beautiful young woman, and decidedly independent. Hilda is an unreal little virginal saintly thing, a bit too prissy for me. She is a very talented copyist, and indeed seems to get into spiritual communion with the old masters, painting the spirit of the picture as well as the artistic technique. Kenyon is a sculptor, also quite talented, and it is he who first notices their friend Donatello's remarkable resemblance to a sculpture, the Faun of Praxiteles. He not only resembles the faun physically, but has the artless joyful style of the faun. In fact, he is the Count of Monte Beni, an ancient Italian family with a mysterious past.
Nathaniel Hawthorne would never leave four such charming friends in peace and joy for long; it's not his way. Indeed, a rather mysterious stranger haunts Miriam. They met apparently by accident in the catacombs beneath an ancient monastery, and the monk (for so he proved to be) clearly recognized Miriam and she him. But neither one offered any explanation to Miriam's friends. Indeed, they came to know him as "Miriam's model," because she had done several pictures involving the man. Hints are offered here and there, but it does not become clear who he is or what his connection with Miriam is until very nearly the end of the book. A reader can't help guessing, of course; mine was close to but not on the mark.
Intertwined with the story of Miriam and Donatello, between whom a rather macabre love develops, is the story of Hilda and Kenyon. Kenyon is clearly besotted by the virgin, but she is just too pure to be touched. She is a protestant, but by circumstances has been given responsibility for keeping the eternal lamp burning before a shrine to Virgin Mary. It is high in a tower, and to add to the image of an untouchable virgin, Hilda lives in the top of the tower, and doves populate the tower and she feeds them.
Can you tell I don't like Hilda much? She seems to me to be one of those people who is just too aware of her own purity to be compassionate towards sinners. And such she proves to be. How she messes up other people's lives with her sanctity, and then finally learns compassion, is the bulk of the story.
I liked this book, I kept reading through the over-long descriptions of Roman architecture and festivals and the like, but I just had to see how the mystery was resolved. The bad news is some of the mystery is not really cleared up, but only put aside. And we never do find out whether or not Donatello's ears are pointed like the faun's. ”
“I honestly don't know what to say about this novel...
It was a very very long read for me, although I'm a fast reader, but if I wouldn't generally try to finish every book I start, I would have given up on this one. The main reason was its descriptive nature...far too much abstract description for my taste, descriptions of feelings and so on.
The actual plot was interesting and captivating at times but those descriptions always made me loose my interest and forget what had happened before.”