Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Awakening

This is the first audiobook I listened to from books should be free. It's the story of Edna, a woman who finds herself constricted in the acceptable roles of wife and mother that were open to women in the late 19th century. The book was highly controversial when it was published in 1899 and ruined the rest of Chopin's writing career.

It's beautifully written with a lyrical style that makes listening to it a pleasure. I have to say, though, that the main character is not particularly likeable. There were many moments where I just wanted to slap her and tell her to stop being so self-centred and think of someone other than herself for a change. Of course, being a woman her choices were limited at the time. And yet, that did not manage to stop her from doing whatever she felt like, whenever she felt like it.

In a review I read, someone described the ending as a surprise. I can't say the same - it was quite obvious to me from quite early on. Unlike that person, I was not left feeling very pleased with the book. I would have preferred for there to be consequences. I would have liked to see Edna decide how she wished to live (which was apparently in a whimsical way where everyone attended to her fancies while she did as she pleased) and then to try and live like that in Louisiana at the turn of the 20th century. I would have liked to see what would happen if her husband decided he'd been patient and permissive enough. I would have liked to know what the results of her spending so much time - and plenty of it alone - with a known womaniser/adulterer would have been.

This is definitely worth reading and it certainly gives a sense of the limitations of life for ladies of leisure at that time. It doesn't deal with what I think are the more interesting questions relating to that topic, but we can't have everything.

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