As a biography, Gaeddert’s book does not present thoroughly detailed lives of her subjects. She does cover the whole range of their personal histories, but her primary focus is on the transforming power of love in their lives. This notion is a romantic one, but it nevertheless seems to hold true in this case. Both Hawthorne and Peabody had relatives who would have preferred them to stay the way they were—Hawthorne a recluse and Peabody an invalid—but their mutual attraction and their ensuing love and devotion overcame obstacles and allowed them to become significant people of the world.
Through her use of family histories, especially in the first two chapters, Gaeddert gives young readers a good sense and appreciation of the social and cultural history of this period in New England. The book is not intended to capture fully the golden age of American literature, but readers can recognize the magic of the era that produced Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), and Thoreau’s Walden (1854).
The author produces an accurate portrait of Hawthorne based on standard resource books, as well as on journals and letters. Students of Hawthorne can recognize the family roots of eccentricity, the social reticence, the occasional self-indulgence, and the determination to produce literature of first quality. Also shown by Gaeddert are Hawthorne’s roles as beau, lover, husband, and family man; it is evident that his wife and children were high priorities in Hawthorne’s life. He wanted to be a great writer, but it was just as...
(The entire section is 655 words.)