She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world. – Kate Chopin, The Awakening

The Awakening is one of the books in Radcliffe’s Rival 100 Best Novels List. This is why it made it on my list of to read, as somehow I thought it was a good idea to add another list to my endless list of books to read.

As a general rule, I don’t check the user reviews prior to picking up a book to read. I will check the rating, however; on Goodreads.com, The Awakening has a rating of 3.5-ish stars.

I liked The Awakening. I do think that looking at it from a 2017 point-of-view takes away a lot of the shock this type of subject matter. Women in the late 1800’s were very much submissive to their husbands, and any hint of impropriety was anathema. On the face of it, this novel is about a woman that decides she wants to have freedom from everything: husband, society, social status, her children, etc.

Spoilers…
Edna’s always done what is right and proper. Married a successful businessman, had two kids, ran the household and kept up with all the societal norms. One day, she wakes up (hence the title) and realizes that she is not where she wants to be and is not who she wants to be. She longs to be independent. To have freedom from her husband, from his house, and from her children. She falls in love with the son of a friend, who loves her earnestly in return, however he will not be with her as she is married and it is not the right thing to do. Edna, saddened that she can’t have her Robert, goes out for a late night swim and drowns herself.

Fuck. That ending is pretty depressing. I can say I sympathize with Edna; I know that the journey to self-discovery is sometimes hard, and can take a long time. Christ, I am forty and constantly discovering things about myself. Again, this is much easier said in 2017 than it was in the 1800’s. We all make mistakes through life, and they help form our opinions of who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to do with our lives. Personally, I am grateful for all the ups and downs I have been through: failed first marriage, then crappy relationships, friendships that went bad, and shitty jobs. I consider myself lucky, however. I can now appreciate the good in my life, such as the good relationships and friendships. Each relationship and friendship has taught me something about myself, and about others. Each shitty job I had was a stepping stone, and a rite of passage.

Anyway, back to The Awakening. I enjoyed the book, and I cared about the protagonist (even though I do think her killing herself was weak).

I gave it three stars on Goodreads.

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