Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
First published by Charles E. Brown in 1850 (this edition by Harper Press in 2010)

Description (from Goodreads)

'Ah, but let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.' A tale of sin, punishment and atonement, The Scarlet Letter exposes the moral rigidity of a 17th-Century Puritan New England community when faced with the illegitimate child of a young mother. Regarded as the first real heroine of American fiction, it is Hester Prynne's strength of character that resonates with the reader when her harsh sentence is cast. It is in her refusal to reveal the identity of the father in the face of her accusers that Hawthorne champions his heroine and berates the weakness of Society for attacking the innocent.

My thoughts
The Scarlet Letter was a book I saw randomly in the bookshop, saw that it was on offer, remembered that it was on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list and so, I decided to buy it. I started reading it without reading any reviews of it first or checking the ratings on Goodreads, two facts that definitely played a huge part in my deciding to read it (and also, to try and finish it).

I really did have a problem when reading The Scarlet Letter. It's not that the story isn't interesting. It really is. If you think about it, the book is set in an era when women with children born out of wedlock were shunned by the community and was published at a time when people weren't very receptive of the idea, either (or so I suppose). So, the fact that the main character in this book is such a woman (who has borne a child out of wedlock) allows us to "see" how the person who is subjected to such treatment deals with the whole situation and can account for a very interesting tale.

However, (and that is a BIG however) the book is just unreadable. The language is far too complex, with difficult to comprehend sentences and very long paragraphs with not much going on in them. All of that made the book too difficult to understand at times, which resulted in me ignoring large parts of certain chapters (though I had read them, but failed miserably to comprehend them). And I think it was a pity not to enjoy a book for such a reason. But, really, the difficulty in reading this book took too much of the story away from me.

As for the story and the characters, I can't really say they were clear-cut characters. They were pretty difficult to figure out, as the author made them keep secrets even from the readers, not just from one another. The little child, Pearl, thoroughly creeped me out for the better part of the book and I really couldn't find myself caring for any of the characters in this book.

So as you might expect, this book is not going to be getting a good rating from me. But, from what I've seen on Goodreads, there have been a great number of people who have really enjoyed reading The Scarlet Letter and have managed to "get over" the whole language issue. So, if you like the sound of the story (just like I did), then do not hesitate to try it out for yourself. Even though I did not enjoy it in the end, I am glad that I at least gave this book a chance.

Rating: 2/10


Author:
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer, who lived in the 19th century. He is considered to be a key figure in the development of 19th century American Literature. A large part of his writing centers around New England (such as The Scarlet Letter). Some of his other works include:


You can find out more about the author HERE.


Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, Victorian Literature Challenge, 1001 Books To Read Before You Die (personal challenge)

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