Yesterday I did what I thought it would take another week to do: finished Seven Gables. It’s not that long a book, but it took me about seven weeks. That’s one week per gable! H7G is actually a lot less grim than I was expecting. It’s got a few creepy moments, particularly the opening death, but overall it’s a long wait between creepy moments and plot developments. It opens with old Hepzibah Pyncheon, one of the last remaining Pyncheons – an old and unhappy New England family. The unhappiness goes back two hundred years to when the first Pyncheon stole land from his neighbor and helped get him hanged for a wizard. Ever since then Pyncheons have done now better now worse, but mostly worse.
Hepzibah’s a crazy cat lady without cats. The neighbors avoid her and she them, but she’s not without gumption and facing destitution she decides rather than taking money from her hated cousin Jaffrey, she will open a shop. Hepzibah’s not really a people person and her shop seems doomed to failure except for the arrival of the perfect miss Phoebe from the country. Phoebe’s a ray of sunshine and competent. Her never-failing good cheer and industry make the shop a going concern. Then arrives Hepzibah’s brother Clifford who has been away for a long, long time. We don’t know exactly where or why until near the end, but Clifford is basically now incapable of anything except enjoying a cup of coffee, a seat in the garden and now and then nearly throwing himself out a window in a panic. In addition to these three is a daguerreotypist named Holgrove.
The book goes on rather a long time describing what passes for domestic bliss under these circumstances, now and then pausing to fill in a bit of the past family history or reveal some clue and it’s not until two thirds of the way that things start to move a little faster. It’s not without some charm. The characters, except the Judge, are all likable and I was certainly rooting for them over him the whole time. I was hoping for a bit more excitement at the end, but it’s just not that kind of book. The plot is rather simple and while there’s some suspense near the end, Hawthorne never lets the action getting in the way of waxing lyrical about the weather or the Italian organ grinder. I would say if you want a good story, go read the Moonstone or Bleak House instead.
Sadly, I don’t think this meets any of my myriad challenges.