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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 60/100: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening - Kate Chopin

I've always meant to read this book because it's kind of part of the "feminist canon," and even though others I know who have read it found it remarkably dull, I thought I could at least appreciate it in its historical context.

But that didn't stop it from being dead boring.

Now, there were moments when the writing was really beautiful, able to capture subtle shifts in mood that reminded me of Edith Wharton's writing. And I can understand how revolutionary it was, at the end of the 1800s, to admit that a woman might have longings that went beyond being a wife and mother. This book basically tackles "The Feminine Mystique" sixty years earlier, and in a fictional context, which was probably the safest way for Chopin to shine light on it at the time.

But as a modern woman, it's just hard to feel sorry for or relate to someone who doesn't even realize how incredibly EASY her life is. She seems to hardly take care of her kids; she drifts around when she gets in "moods" and has all the time she wants to devote to her painting hobby; and she is out of touch enough with reality to think she can just move to a different house while her husband is out of town on business without any honest communication taking place.

The ending is ambiguous, possibly tragic, but I opted for ambiguous so that I could give the book a three-star rating. It does make me feel terribly "uncultured" to give a classic less than three stars but some books are more important for their historical value than because they still have something to say to modern readers. In that sense, it is not really "timeless" but instead a "time capsule," a glimpse into a time when such thoughts were scandalous -- even though now they are so very dull that I daydreamed through paragraphs and pages of this and didn't bother to go back to find out what I'd missed.