Pierre; or, The Ambiguities Review – Hannah Alphin #questusreviewus

I cannot say that Pierre; or, The Ambiguities is among my favorite novels. As much as I wanted to like it, I found it challenging to read. I felt like when the story would start to become interesting Melville would insert an additional chapter that would bring the story’s action to a halt. For this reason, I felt like it took forever for things to happen and found myself losing interest quickly.

It is clear that Melville added over a hundred pages to the novel after finishing it because many parts seem unnecessary and forced. However, I did enjoy some aspects of Pierre such as the characters and themes.

I think it is important to know the backstory for why Melville wrote Pierre before reading it. Essentially, the novel signifies Melville’s break up with his long-time friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. Knowing this information, it is easy to identify reflections of Melville and Hawthorne’s relationship throughout the story. I believe that Pierre’s relationship with Glen Stanley serves as an example. Ultimately, Pierre (Melville) trusts Glen Stanley (Hawthorne) but later feels betrayed by him and ends his life. This may be considered Melville ending his relationship with Hawthorne.

I believe I would have enjoyed Pierre if it had been shorter and more focused. Most of the time the writing was all over the place and hard to follow.

Without a doubt, Pierre is a thought-provoking novel with complex themes and symbolism. One of the most prominent themes in the story is the ambiguous nature of good and evil. Although I appreciated the themes the novel attempts to explore, the writing is unnecessarily dense, and the plot moved too slow for my taste.  Unfortunately, I would not re-read this novel and give it 2/5 stars.