Kate Chopin

Emily Toth, Author William Morrow & Company $27.95 (528p) ISBN 978-0-688-09707-3
More than 70 years after its publication, The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1850-1904)--the story of a woman who embraces solitude and abnegates the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood--was rediscovered by the women's movement. After a friend passed a copy to Toth at an antiwar march, she ``found a dissertation topic and lifelong pursuit.'' Not a detail of Chopin's history is considered too trivial for inclusion in this pedestrian dissection. Alongside a chronicle of Chopin's emergence as a short-story writer and novelist are reports on her honeymoon menstrual cramps, her physician's ``deliberately unstylish'' clothes and the career of Frances Porcher, an early reviewer of The Awakening . The literal-minded biographer ( The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation ) tediously compares ``Kate'' with ``Edna'' (Edna Pontellier, the heroine of The Awakening ); her explanations of Chopin's discontent in her marriage and illicit relationship with a married man are flimsy. Toth is also given to portentousness: during the Civil War years, Chopin ``took the law into her own hands'' when she tore down a Union flag that appeared mysteriously on her front porch. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-292-78127-6
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