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The Marble Faun: or, The Romance of Monte Beni (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 1, 1990
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“Describ[es] Rome and Italian scenes as few others have.” —Anthony Trollope
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As the title suggests, The Marble Faun is a romance, but, typical of Hawthorne, a dark and brooding one. Being a product of his times and his religious upbringing, Hawthorne could resist inserting a tedious amount of philosophical contemplation, perhaps to highlight the moral symbolism that permeates the story. More pleasing is the time he devoted to describing the landscapes, monuments, art, and street life of Rome and the Tuscan countryside. There are even a few magical elements as well, such as the wine that is made on Donatello's estate that cannot fail to impart happiness to the drinker. While this region has undoubtedly changed since Hawthorne's tour, nearly everything that he referred to remains to be viewed to this day.
The Marble Faun demands patience from its readers, but take it slowly (I needed the entire summer!) and your perseverance is rewarded. But be forewarned: the friends are reunited at book's end, and the final chapter is bittersweet.
The Marble Faun is probably the least successful of Hawthorne's novels (except the unfinished ones, obviously). But for those who want to have a comprehensive understanding of his craft and its later direction, I concede that it's a must-read. If you are looking for a first Hawthorne novel, try The Scarlet Letter instead. The House of the Seven Gables is probably the second best, and The Blithedale Romance, the third.
Diane in Metuchen