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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2005
A century after the publication of Kate Chopin's novel, its themes -- a woman's awakening to the full potential of her sexual passion and her sense of being smothered by marriage and motherhood -- have become the staple ingredients of 'chick lit'. It is thus easy to overlook how revolutionary and shocking the events and ideas of this story must have seemed at the time. Then, the book was banned from public libraries; now, it is required reading in some American schools.
In many ways, both in theme and treatment, it resembles "Madame Bovary". Although Chopin lacks Flaubert's scope and breadth of vision, she reaches deeper into the soul of her heroine. Her style is restrained and elegant and some modern readers, accustomed to a pacier and more explicit treatment, may grow impatient at times. But there is beautiful writing here, embodying rich characterizations, strong evocations of time and place and thought-provoking moral ambiguity. An undoubted masterpiece.
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on 19 December 1997
The reader comments on this book illustrate a truth. Great literature rarely inspires a tepid response. This carefully drawn portrait of a young wife's awakening deserves comparison with Madame Bovary, but that, as well, was a sensational text, condemned by the readers of the day as inflammatory, condemned by modern readers as dull. The Awakening is an inspired and inspiring work. This book is full of symbolism and passion, and though the story is an eventually bleak one, it resonates with truth. This is a book about the pain of coming to life, and the power of inescapable maternal entanglement. Read it if you have an ear for beautiful language, a wise soul, and an active brain. If you prefer your truths to be merely pleasant, your endings to be tdily happy, and your grey matter to remain inert, leave The Awakening on the shelf.
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on 4 September 2009
Sadly, I had the chance to read only a few of the stories in this book. This was on my reading list for a paper on American literature, and I approached it apprehensively, having never heard of the author before. Stunning prose: poetic, unpretentious and fluid, describing characters whose closeness was painful. 'The Awakening' gained momentum as it progressed. The only problem was the ending, which didn't seem to live up to its promise. Feminist, but without turnings males into cardboard cut-outs!
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on 21 June 2016
I bought this for my English degree and I have to say it surprised me. Some of the other literature from abroad I have read has been a bit boring, but I loved this story. Sad but well written. What a shame she wasn't as well​ thought of at the time she wrote it.
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VINE VOICEon 28 February 2009
I read this a few months ago for a book group. I was hopeful that I would enjoy "The Awakening", but did not (though it provoked one of the most interesting discussions the group ever had since opinions about it were very sharply divided). The story concerns a bored wife, Edna Pontellier, with a generous but distant husband who seems to be attracted to anyone, especially any male, who can provide her with some distraction from the domesticity she has drifted into.

If the author wants us to admire Edna Pontellier because of her search for something meaningful in her life she has failed with me, and Edna's actions at the end of the book makes this seem a bizarre attitude to take, even if we neglect the haphazard nature of this search. If, on the other hand, we are actually meant to see Edna as a weak and self-indulgent woman, and to learn from her to be more suspicious of our own desires and our ability to silence our conscience, then Kate Chopin has created a masterpiece, albeit an unlikeable one. Probably the writer was deliberately ambiguous and torn herself between these two reactions.

Although my reaction to the book was dominated by impatience with Edna, and shock at her indifference towards her own children, the book has some very good points. The description of Creole society is fascinating and many of the beach scenes, and especially a trip to an island roughly midway through the book, have a dreamlike and impressionistic quality that is memorable.
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on 28 August 2012
I must confess that I had never heard of Kate Chopin until I read this book for an Open University course. The work has been likened, understandably, to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and while there are resonances of that work, the heroine (or anti-heroine, perhaps) Edna is a more profound and complex character than the somewhat vacuous Emma. This is a brave work; written at the end of the nineteenth century, it addresses issues that novellists rarely dared to tackle until some sixty years later. There is no moralising and one of the beauties of the novel is that the reader can read just as much between the lines as the text provides. Kate Chopin deserves her renaissance.
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on 13 May 1998
This is my absolute favorite novel. I read it for the first time in high school, and have reread it several times since my initial engagement with Edna and her strength to decide not to be the woman society tells her she should be. Perhaps it is the writing and story that drew me in initially, but it is the message that keeps me going back to this book. Many say her suicide shows her weakness. I wholeheartedly disagree -- this is her strength, her decision that she cannot be someone she is not. Kate Chopin's thoughts and words are amazing -- a message many today need to appreciate, a message about women as strong individuals, not haphazard followers. The Awakening is incredible!
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on 25 August 1998
How could any woman not like this book? I am FAR from being a feminist, but- WOW! Ms. Chopin was ahead of her time in describing the oppression of women and how they were considered nothing but an extension of their husbands. She ventured where few female authors dared and boldly expressed the idea that if a woman wasn't free to be herself it was better, not only for her, but for all around her, that she were dead instead of living as someone that she was not. Suicide was a little extreme, but what other choice did Edna have in that time period? Ms. Chopin's ideas of liberation and identity and equality are still applicable today. A woman must become someone before she becomes someone's wife.
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on 1 November 2014
Great book and value - thank-you!
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on 2 May 1998
My 10th grade english teacher made me read this book this year, and in a way I thank him. I think The Awakening had a lot of good points to it. However, I didn't like the way Mrs. Pontellier went around flirting with any guy that walked her way. She could of kept the idea of being passionate a little more private. It was wrong to cheat on your husband back then and it still is. Some things never change. However, it was good that Chopin showed by the ending especially, how difficult it was to except and live with the idea that divorce was totaly not excepted. Over all I think Chopin wrote an excellent book, I just didn't like the idea that she was being so rude to her family, her husband, kids, and sister. That was wrong. Especially with what she did with the kids.
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