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4.0 out of 5 stars
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4.0 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 18 June 2017
I've read this book as part of a literature appreciation course. I'd heard of neither the author or the book so it really was an unknown commodity.
The book is 220 pages split into 39 chapters. Also worth noting that this version uses a fairly large font and has notes on the pages so no searching at the back of the book.
There is a brief introduction to the author but no detailed analysis of the novel. This was very pleasing as I really love to read a classic novel without having been told how I should be enjoying it.
The plot is great - it deals with society, class, feminism, expectations, marriage, motherhood and many other issues. All wrapped together with many small vignettes of moments in time. This author was primarily a short story writer and this becomes very clear when reading this book as you can see that many of the small chapters could almost stand alone as short stories.
Edna is wonderful as a heroine, she is full of flaws but manages to hold herself above the other characters whilst not being afraid to display her weaknesses.
It's a complex situation and there are some huge decisions to be made. Kate Chopin shows the reader what is happening without ever judging the characters or patronising the reader. The reader can judge Edna but such judgements would be foolish without taking time to try to understand her.
This tale is still very relevant today although it not as shocking as it probably was in 1899.
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"For the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her."

Written in 1899, this is the radical story of a married woman's 'awakening', not just to sexual desire ('It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire') but also to a sense of self-hood ('But I don't want anything but my own way') and independence ('I am no longer one of Mr Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose').

The aspect that I found most unexpected is not so much Edna's embracing of her sexuality but the way she contests society's view that motherhood is the only route to fulfilled femininity - Edna loves her children, she just doesn't think that her life should be solely confined to them.

Chopin writes with precision, with some passages of lyricism, but mainly in a straightforward way: we're not left in any doubt about her message here and while there's some use of symbolism (birds, the sky, the sea, the claustrophobic interior of Edna's family home), there's nothing difficult, obtuse or oblique about her style - it's there on the surface.

Despite that, it's easy to see this as a founding feminist text: it may not have the complexities of Edith Wharton or Virginia Woolf, say, but it makes a bold statement all the same.
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on 3 March 2017
I feel rather mixed with this book, on the one hand I found Edna to be shallow, naive and selfish but on the other I admire her spirit and eventual determination to break free of the bonds she finds herself in. Chopin does show the restrictions and limiting expectations that were, and to some extent still are, placed on women by certain parts of society and how much of an emotional prison these can create. Yes Edna is far more privileged than many women of the time and she does ultimately make some very selfish decisions, which can be interpreted very negatively. But if you consider why she is in the situation she is in, with the expectation of Victorian society that ladies marry, have children and be the 'perfect' wife putting aside their own dreams, wants and desires (not to mention the fact they are not considered to be sexual beings), it leaves her with few options. And, for me, it is these limitations that mean Edna has no other way to rebel and has every right to be selfish. It is her only way to be herself and break free of her bonds. Chopin has done well to show this battle in its entirety both the good and the bad and in doing so she highlights how the choices left to women of the time epitomize being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
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on 19 January 2015
Kate Chopin's short, beautifully written novel describes the evolution of a respectable New Orleans matron in the last year of the 19th century. Wife of a successful New Orleans businessman and mother of two, Edna Pontellier is first revealed to us as a wife with vague, unexpressed feelings of being discontent, undervalued and disillusioned with her apparently solid marriage and conventional upper middle class life. Spending the summer on an island resort, she meets and falls in love with Robert, and discovers unexplored depths of infatuation and erotic longing. Although unconsummated, the 'affair' haunts Edna upon her return to normal life at the end of the summer and she starts to rebel against the normal expectations placed upon her. When her husband's trip to New York on business leaves her alone with time and freedom to contemplate her life, she begins a process of reinvention that inspires her to re-visit an earlier love of art, to move out of the family home and even engage in a casual sexual relationship with a local Lothario. In the midst of this fast-paced unraveling of her former life, the unexpected return of Robert is the catalyst for the novel's tragic conclusion. With great sensitivity and breathtaking prose, Chopin addresses women's issues that were almost certainly never raised at the end of the 19th century. As many have already said, the book was 'ahead of its time' and foreshadowed the feminist movement which really did not take wings until the early 1970s.
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on 29 November 2011
This reminded me very much of Madame Bovery as they are both women who are trapped in their marriage by the constraints of their social world and time period.

While Bovary deals with her situation by delving into her own fantasy world, the protagonist in The Awakening, Edna Pontellier also tries to carve her own life away from her roles as a wife and mother. The catalyst for Edna is her own 'Awakening' when she suddenly cannot bear to keep her own passions (either for music, art or sexual) within any longer.

While I can see how ground-breaking the novel must have been and I can sympathise with Edna, I did not enjoy the actual reading experience of The Awakening. I found the prose while quite dreamlike and full of imagery also quite dull and for such a short book I struggled to read to the end.

I didn't struggle to connect with Edna, I could see how she wanted to be something other than a wife and mother in that time period. I could see the point I just didn't enjoy the writing style.
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on 23 June 2015
First time Kate Chopin read. Kate knew her word weaving and transformed me vividly to her plantation worlds. The stories touched my heart, stories with superb plot line and superior characterisation. A collection of stories I will reread in years to come. A first time, and indeed second time read, will not suffice in shining a thorough diagnostic examining light on the storyline layers weaved into the intricate fabric of each tale. A superb storyteller and word craftsman with The End written over her life story too soon, depriving literature of a giant great.
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on 15 May 2017
Kate Chopin was a talented author who was subjected to much criticism for this short novel which depicts a beautiful married woman seeking freedom which she eventually finds. The prose is sensuous in a way which reminds me of D H Lawrence. There is a subtle sense of place and a vivid evocation of high society in New Orleans and the Gulf at the beginning of the twentieth century.
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on 18 November 2016
A throwback to earlier times and attitudes. (The book was initially banned from publication). Sensitively written, some beautiful passages of writing, a love story well told and which will linger in the mind. The story of a freethinking woman ahead of her time.
I initially thought 4 stars because of some 'slow' passages but really this is a 5 star novel from an author setting a standard
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on 30 January 2011
*May contain spoilers - nothing major however*
The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a novel I read last week and absolutely loved. I did not expect to like it that much, I thought the language would be difficult and it would be a bit dull but I ordered it anyway because I wanted to read a bit of American Literature to get a taste of it (contemplating doing an English Literature and American Literature course at university). I was pleasantly surprised; it was a really fun read. It kind of reminded me of modern day romance novels with the multiple romantic interests, but obviously when looked beyond that, it's a novel about a woman trying to find her identity and doing that by abandoning social confines. For that reason I found the novel so inspiring, it wasn't overly feminist, although it was banned when first published, I feel for our modern times it was subtle in a good way. I'm a sucker for romance, so although the love was not entirely the point of the novel I still really liked the male interest, Robert. He was so sweet and hard not to like.

The writing style is pretty easy, and with this edition the words which would be difficult to understand without looking up are explained at the bottom which is very helpful. So, I think it would be good for any ages to read (not too young mind).

In short, I would recommend the novel to anyone looking for a quick, but thought provoking read which stays with the reader long after read.
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on 20 December 2015
... or as the infamous Mademoiselle put it, her fight against "tradition and prejudice". As the Mademoiselle also well knew, Mme Pontellier's wings, amazing though they were, proved nowhere near as strong as they'd have needed to be. Or were they...?

I hesitated between 4 and 5 stars, and eventually decided to err on the side of generosity, this being my first Kate Chopin, and for her fascinating portrait and sympathetic treatment of a woman's struggle, caught between her increased self-awareness and the limits of "the acceptable" imposed by her society.
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