10 July 2012

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin (Audio Review)

1899. The Awakening is released.

Many have already stated this and I must also echo the same, and unashamedly so. This is the sort of book that I, for just a second, wish I was around during the time it was published so I could see how society responded. After all, the topic is no acceptable thing back in the day.

Scandal! Illicit affairs! A woman choosing to live her life, separate from her husband and children, and society's expectations! To have her own identity?! *scoffs* How dare she?!

What an intriguing peek into this time. Although part of me shrugged and said, "meh" about the characters, another part of me was thrilled at the sauciness and independence of it all. Scandal and intrigue is always a bit fun to read about.

I wasn't completely blown away, though, but I love a classic. Yes, it was beautifully written, but it was Shelly Frasier's voice that kept me rapt with attention. A few months ago, I listened to her narrate the hilariously freaky and sometimes gross, Stiff  by the fantastic Mary Roach. Shelly Frasier, I will listen to you tell me any ole story, I do believe.

Edna is a woman of respectable stature, married to a prominent businessman in Louisiana. With two children, they create the very image of a young and affluent family. Edna, however, isn't quite pleased with her life, and feeling empty and dislodged from everything, begins to have deep feelings for another man. The eventual affair is tense, yet minimal, and it is more of Edna's discovery of who she is, that reveals her independence. She has awakened and finds she no longer wants to be represented as a wife and mother. Unhinged from her family ties and society labels? Yes, she is. I'd also hasten that she became unhinged mentally as well, but it's not surprising considering it must feel like she became completely untethered to all the things that once made her who she was. That can be tough to deal with. The labels one defines themselves with, while they can be wrong or unfair, are still ones that define a person and give something of a foundation. Not having those self-defined labels while the rest of the world still has them over you, can make you feel adrift.

Without question, this is a story I'm sure rocked the times. I can picture this book hidden away, women gasping over the pages, yet ultimately finding some sort of their own awakening, a personal revelation or epiphany that maybe, just maybe, they don't need no man to get it done. Why, they can do it all on their own. My heavens! Such a thought.

There is a haunting and quiet feel to the story that I did enjoy, and was curious to see how it would all turn out. I suppose, while the end was a little surprising, it was to be expected. Edna is selfish in many ways, but her perspective and eventual change in her outlook was a little bit fascinating. Of course, if this were a contemporary novel, I probably wouldn't have been all that interested.

Note: So that you're not surprised, there was definitely an inordinate amount of racism, which of course is attributed to the times, but still. Some really horrible terms were used, and I cringed every single time.

Audio Notes: Shelly Frasier is just AMAZING. This story was a much better experience because of her voice, the accents of Louisiana, and the lilting drawl of French New Orleans. Her voice is like a lazy raft ride down the river on a summer day. Click here to listen to the sample.

Publisher: Tantor Audio
Release Date: 08/23/05
Audio Time: 5 hours, 5 minutes
Narrator: Shelly Frasier

Others said:

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this for free from the Virginia Beach Public Library.

About the Author (from KateChopin.org)
American author Kate Chopin (1850-1904) wrote two published novels and about a hundred short stories in the 1890s. Most of her fiction is set in Louisiana and most of her best-known work focuses on the lives of sensitive, intelligent women.


  1. Oh, that was probably the Fifty Shades of its time! lol

  2. I read this many years ago in college, and think that it was revolutionary for it's time, and that it would probably be nice to read it again sometime soon. It sounds like it's an excellently performed audio, and I think that for my next choice on audio, I shall try to pick this one up. Great review today, Natalie. I loved your reactions and thoughts on this book!

  3. I think you're right, to fully appreciate the book you have to do a little mental time travel and imagine how UNACCEPTABLE this book was. I'm not completely sure if this is something I'd enjoy or not, but if I were going to read it, it would be on audio.

  4. This one is a best of the best for me...and I didn't read it until I was in graduate school. I read it as part of an assignment in Literary Criticism for a male teacher who was the biggest asshole I have ever met to this day. I really connected with Edna for some reason during that semester. I felt pushed and pressured unfairly yet trapped at the same time. I was a grad assistant in the English Dept. that year and he was determined to make my life miserable. It's probably bc of that personal experience that I reacted so strongly to The Awakening. I would LOVE to listen to this one on audio though! I'm due a re-read and it would be interesting to see if I react as strongly as I did the first time. The ending to me is perfect; there was no other way (and I mean that figuratively, not literally).
    I've been listening to my audios while walking btw and it seems to push me a little further each time...I don't want to stop in the middle of a chapter :) Yay!!

  5. I was kinda meh about it. Obviously, I shoulda time traveled back to 1899 to fully appreciate it. :-D

  6. This was an interesting book to contemplate. I remember thinking that Miss Chopin must have been something of a pariah to have exposed marital disenchantment and a woman responding to it in such an unorthodox way. I also could imagine hosts of women hiding this book and secretly reading and rereading parts of it and relating, sadly enough, to the situation. Going forward, I read a book by Anita Shreve years later called Fortune's Rocks that created the same kinds of feelings - it wasn't as deep, but its atmosphere felt the same to me.

  7. Another one to add to my list and I swear I already own it...somewhere on my overcrowded book shelves!

  8. I remember loving this book. But I'm sure certain things sound much more scandalous when read aloud.

  9. I loved this book and the two short stories I read by her, Desiree's Baby and The Story of an Hour.