Friday Favorites: The Awakening

Friday, February 25, 2011


The Awakening
by Kate Chopin
★★★★★

This often over-looked classic, has been making waves for more than a century. It has been called the “proto-feminist precursor to American modernism” and has inspired generations of women.

The story revolves around Edna Pontellier, a woman in her late twenties who is a mother, wife and socialite in New Orleans. After a family vacation to the seaside, Edna’s view of her world and the life she leads drastically changes. She’s no longer content to be viewed as a piece of property and she decides to rebel against the accepted social norms.

The novel is small in size, but large in revolutionary ideas. If it had been written in the last 50 years, it wouldn’t have the same power. It was published in 1899 and it challenged the traditional and widely accepted social standards of that time.

In Edna, Chopin created a character that balked at being defined by her husband and children, when no one else dared to do so. Though I’ve never had children and I’m lucky enough to have a husband who supports my interests, I can still understand how disturbing it would be to see yourself disappearing into the roles you’ve been assigned.

Henrik Ibsen published his play, A Doll House, which deals with a similar situation, in 1879, but I think it’s easier for a man to make those observations. It was much more daring and controversial for a woman to write about such things.

The book is striking both for the issues it deals with and because of the prose is beautiful. It provides a powerful look at our gender and a gives us a chance to reflect on just how far we’ve come.

17 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I need to remember this one - I think I read about it first over at Nymeth's. I always say I never would have made it had I lived in an earlier era. I'm too much of a bull in a china shop to take the repression...I probably would have ended up stoned to death or something.

Amanda said...

This book is so amazing!

Teacher/Learner said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this book as I've seen it in my book blog travels & wanted to learn more about it. Don't you just love books that break the mould & influence future generations?

Jeanne said...

I think women still "disappear into the roles" they've been assigned or that they've chosen more than men do, and we're still shocked when, for instance, a husband gets custody of the kids. I wish more people read this book; I get the impression (maybe from working in too many colleges) that it's regarded as a "merely" a feminist work and that turns off some potential readers.

Avid Reader said...

Sandy - I feel the same. My mouth is way too big to keep me out of trouble in a different time period.

Teacher/Learner - I do love books like that and they're rare. One of the best things about this one is that I had no idea what to expect. If I'd been expecting a revolutionary book I probably wouldn't have been impressed. but it was such a gem!

Jeanne - Very true. We've come a long way, but sometimes not as far as we think.

Allie said...

I'm glad you liked this one! SO good!

Bybee said...

I read this one 25 years ago and found it very powerful. I wonder if it would be the same novel for me now? I really like Chopin's short stories, particularly one that I think is titled The Story of an Hour.

Charley said...

You have reminded me that this book is on my shelf, waiting to be read. The copy I have is quite slim, so I overlook it.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

Melissa - I emailed you awhile back letting you know you won Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert in my giveaway. Can you please get back to me with your mailing address? Thanks!!

book.addict29@gmail.com

Monica said...

I have this on my TBR list. I actually read it about 30 million years ago, and just cannot remember it, except a vague sense of enjoying it. So want to dive into it again.

BookQuoter said...

This is a book that is on my shelf, and is also waiting to be read. I have read mixed reviews, so glad you like it.

Avid Reader said...

Bybee - I'll have to read The Story of an Hour. It is interesting to reread books you loved years before. Some just don't have the same effect.

I hope you guys all enjoy it when you read it. It is a slim novel, but so good!

Alexandra said...

“proto-feminist precursor to American modernism” Yikes, that would intimidate me right from the start!

Avid Reader said...

Alexandra - Definitely don't be intimidated. It's just one woman's story and it's not a tough read at all. I hadn't hear any of those labels when I read it and I'm glad.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

I loved this book. I think it's sad, though, that its publication destroyed Chopin's reputation, and she wasn't able to find a publisher for her next novel. I would definitely love to read more of her work. Great review. :)

Carrie @ nomadreader said...

I haven't read this one since high school, but it's one of my favorites too. I hope to re-read it sometime this year.

Avid Reader said...

Darlyn - I didn't know that, but I can see how that would happen. That's awful.