Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reading The Awakening

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
I chose a new book.  I am leaving Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy behind for now.  Perhaps I will still finish it, but it might take me a bit more time than a week.  Like when I read All the Pretty Horses.  I thought about giving up on it, since it was taking so long to get through, but I stuck it out and ended up finding so much beauty within those pages.  As for TTSS, I am simply taking a break, coming back later to discover its beauty.

The book I am reading now is The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  It was recommended by GLWT reader and my dear friend, Erin, in her comment when entering our sweepstakes last month.  As I was browsing through the books at the Value Village in Capitol Hill, I happened across the title.  It was a thin book, and so I picked it up.

I read this description on the back of the book:
When first published in 1899, The Awakening shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity.  Audiences accustomed to the pieties of late Victorian romantic fiction were taken aback by Chopin's daring portrayal of a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who seeks and finds passionate physical love outside the straitened confines of her domestic situation.
Aside form its unusually frank treatment of a then-controversial subject, the novel is widely admired today for its literary qualities.  Edmund Wilson characterized it as a work "quite uninhibited and beautifully written, which anticipates D.H. Lawrence in its treatment of infidelity."
Although the theme of marital infidelity no longer shocks, few novels have plumbed the psychology of a woman involved in an illicit relationship with the perception, artistry and honesty that Kate Chopin brought to The Awakening.
Shocking, daring, honest and controversial.  I was won over.  Given the number of pages, 116 compared to the 382 of my last book, and the recommendation as well as the description, how could I not choose this book next?

I have read eleven pages thus far.

What I like: You definitely get a feel for the time and place, the late 1800's and at a summer resort outside of New Orleans.  While current literature and media may throw infidelity at us left and right, numbing our reaction to the plethora of indecencies, reading The Awakening brings a level of purity to the reader's perception.  You get a sense for how "wrong" it was then.  Whether it happened as much as it does now is a moot point, for it is within the views of the society in which you live that that you find the shocking quality.  Current media still plays upon the drama of infidelity, but with an underlying thread of inevibility.

What I do not like:  Coming across words like befurbelowed.  "Children, freshly befurbelowed, were gathering for their games under the oaks."  What the hell does that mean?  Jamie and I had a ball with that word last night, using it willy-nilly in various sentences, and thinking about trying to use it out and about in the world the next day.  It was so fun (OK, so I didn't really not like this part after all) that I don't know if I even want to know what the definition really is.

I looked it up.  As far as I could see online, it is not defined by any dictionary.  I did find this answer on ChaCha, a Q&A website that I have never seen before, "Befurbelowed ? Furbelows are flounces or elaborate trim on a dress or shirt. Befurbelowed means to be dressed up in particularly fancy clothes."
So, have fun with that one.  We kinda like how it sounds like Beefer the way we pronounce it.  "Beefer-bellowed"  he-he

Have fun reading!



Laura Laing said...

I *love* this book, and I hope you do too. (It's short!)


erin quinn said...

OMG, you made my day with this blog! And this is one of the same copies (yes, I own several) of the book! I LOVE the language and detail when describing the setting! I hope you ENJOY it! You already know, its one of my most favorite books. ever.

Cassandra said...

LOL. I had no idea that's what befurbelowed meant. My spell checker is yelling, saying it's not a word at all. ;)

I'm glad you found a good book to read this week! I hope you enjoy the rest of it as much as you're enjoying the beginning.

Melissa Baumgart said...

@Laura, I loved it too! And I read your piece in the City Paper, great writing!
@erin quinn, happy to make your day, wish I could do it everyday! and I loved the book. Can't believe it took me that long to read it.
@Cassandra, it's always fun to come across a new word. Now, as for using it in everyday life, now that's another story! I doubt people will yell like your spellchecck did, but they might get thier feathers ruffled. lol