No American writer has a more assured claim to greatness than Nathaniel Hawthorne. Yet for all that's known about him, the essential mystery of his life and personality remains. Philip Young comes to Hawthorne soaked in his work and the New England past. Not one to grub fiction for biographical scandal, and unable to psychobabble, Young has been brought to see crucial stories of his master, and The Scarlet Letter, for the layered mysteries they are. His evidence, whether from Hawthorne's texts, from the friendship he refused with Meville, or from ancient family and court records, survives scrutiny. It breaks the heart, too, but Hawthorne is not diminished by Young's scrupulous and elegant discriminations. His great work abides but his secret is at last made public, as public as the "A" embroidered over hre breast made Hester Prynne's.
"Young has altered the way we think about a major writer and his work."Leo Mars, The New York Review of Books