The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin: Book CoverFinished 12-14-09, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 1899

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not  a mother-woman.  The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle.  It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood.  They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy priviledge to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels

Chapter IV

Edna Pontellier is a young woman living in New Orleans in the late 1880’s,  Her life, like that of most ladies at that time, revolves around her husband, children, and social calls.  Then one summer while she and her family were on Grand Isle, she becomes enamoured with Robert Lebrun, who returns the interest in kind.  As Edna feels propriety fall away, her new way of looking at her life makes her a changed woman and unhappy.  Edna is a woman who is stuck in a box and she longs to break free.

This is a re-read for me.  I read it in college and loved it.  It’s on my Top 100 list and it will likely be there for quite some time.  There is a profound beauty in the writing and with Edna’s awakening that left much for thought.  There were passages that moved me, made me think, and defined the times.  I cannot get into too much discussion without ruining the end, but I would recommend this book as a thoughtful classic. 

Kate Chopin was very sensitive to criticism and the harshness of her detractors over this book forced her to stop writing altogether.  This was her last novel and it is a shame she never got the recognition she deserved when she was alive.  People seem to think you need to agree with Edna’s decisions to appreciate the book.  I think that is missing the point.  But that’s just me.

I chose to read this as part of a book group that Em at The Many Thoughts of a Reader is hosting.  Feel free to stop by her blog as she and others discuss it.  I think I may be the only one who loves it 🙂

This book was from my personal library.

You will choose 50 of the books I will read next year.  If you help me you could win a $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble.  Go here to vote. (Right now the top vote getter is A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving)