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Book Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

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Proclaimed as one of the foundational pieces to the feminist movement in literature, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening tell the story of a married 20-something woman living during the turn of the century in New Orleans desperate to free herself without regard to her responsibilities to society and family.  Chopin’s dynamic Edna discovers herself and finds an increasing need to flee from her oppressive and loveless marriage.  Tragically, Edna ends her story with a collection of selfishly made choices and a decision to abandon her role as mother and wife.

I am still finding it difficult to form a solid opinion of The Awakening.  I respect its place as a significant representation of the birth of the feminist  movement in American culture during the latter part of the 19th century, but I find the main character’s responses to her circumstances frustratingly selfish and a bit childish (think Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic pre-Jack Dawson).  However, at the same time, I recognize these responses and behavior as a result of society’s practice of treating women partially as property and partially as naive and fickle beings in need of supervision, restrictions, and protection.  In some respect, I understand a person, forced into constraints and prevented from growing as an adult, to behave selfishly as Edna.  On the other hand, I find it difficult to respect her because she fails to truly grow.  She discovers her sexual being, but at the expense of her responsibility to her children.  She discovers the capacity to love, but falls into an obsessive state of a man rather than fully engrossing herself into her full potential.  Edna leaves her family not for some greater and nobel venture, but for the affection of another man.  Her behaviors represent the stigma of women today - that they do not see much else to life that finding true love and acceptance from a knight in shining armor.

The delivery of The Awakening was one that I found refreshing.  The vast majority of the story moved at a slower and very descriptive pace.  It forced me into a state of full absorption of the surroundings and day-to-day living in Edna’s world.  The remaining pages of the story kicked into full gear for me and I could not help but finish the book without quoting Anchorman - “Well, that escalated quickly.”  I felt as if Edna was slipping from my hands and I could not fully absorb her actions before she left the pages of the book.

The Awakening is a short novel, and given its representation in female literature and bleak ending, I would recommend this book despite my own frustrations with the main character.  Fun Note: It is also on the Banned Books List (because of its place in fiction during the time of its publication date, as well as its original cover, many libraries removed the book from the shelves).

The Awakening | by Kate Chopin | 190 pp. 

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Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The most recently hyped book on booktube, We Were Liars, pushes the themes found in Wuthering Heights but fails to deliver.  The attempts to weave in and out of a memory re-consciousness left me feeling tired rather than intrigued.  I listed to the advice and read the book without learning of any spoilers, but I would have been better off hearing the less than special ending and reserved my time for something with a bit more substance.  Basically, E. Lockhart’s structure came off forced and failed at delivering the shock-surprise endings once trendy by creators like M. Night Shyamalan.

We Were Liars captures the story of a privileged family who spends summers on a private island near Martha’s Vineyard and is at the height of society.  The story is narrated by the eldest of the grandchildren, Cady, who spends her time trying to remember something far forgotten.  As she comes closer to her truth, she realizes her family is not the picture of perfection and that she has done something she can never take back.

I can’t decide if it was my failure to connect with any of the characters, the endless fair tale metaphors, or the predictability of the story’s end, but I just didn’t react in any sort of way to this book.  The only feelings that arose out of me were those that came when I was faced with the sad and wasteful death of a household pet.  Nothing else moved me when it came to reading this family’s story, and when I finished, I was left me feeling flat, bored, and frustrated.