the three stars are all for the consummate writing skill that hawthorne commands, but with this novel i've come to realize i don't really like his novels. i like his short stories, and i think he was attracted to that form, in his time a new one that he helped define in the US, because i feel he chafed against the conventions of the novel in his day. as with what i experienced in reading the house of the seven gables, the prose of the blithedale romance is dense, molasses thick, and while artful, a strain to my attention span.
even when the characters dialogue, it is work because their conversations are peppered with so much contemporary content without being contextualized -- the stuff about fournier here required more than any footnote provided in my edition, for example, i had to go do some serious research to understand the protagonist's allusion to him -- all he mentions is turning water into lemonade, not fournier's attitude toward open sexytimes which is what the other character hollingsworth, a religious conservative, is ostensibly responding to... i have to read all these words, and then do all this research to understand them? it made my brain hurt, but not in a good way.
and while i was happy to finally read about zenobia, a character name that has long haunted me, in the end, i just found it all very tiring. so i will continue to admire the hell out of hawthorne's abilities as a writer, and love his short stories, but i don't think i'm going to go out of my way to read any more of his novels. i think i'm too modern, and too impatient for them.