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Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories: At Fault/Bayou Folk/A Night in Acadie/The Awakening/Uncollected Stories (Library of America) (Hardcover) by Kate Chopin (Author)
From ruined Louisiana plantations to bustling, cosmopolitan New Orleans, Kate Chopin wrote with unflinching honesty about propriety and its strictures, the illusions of love and the realities of marriage, and the persistence of a past scarred by slavery and war. Her stories of fiercely independent women, culminating in her masterpiece The Awakening (1899), challenged contemporary mores as much by their sensuousness as their politics, and today seem decades ahead of their time. Now, The Library of America collects all of Chopin's novels and stories as never before in one authoritative volume.
The explosive novel At Fault (1890) centers on a love triangle between a strong-willed young widow, a stiff St. Louis businessman, and the man's alcoholic wife. In the story collections Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897), Chopin transforms the local color sketch into taut, perfectly calibrated tales of post-Civil War bayou culture. In The Awakening, the now-classic novel that scandalized many of her contemporaries and effectively ended her writing career, Chopin tells the story of a restless, unsatisfied woman who embarks on a quixotic search for fulfillment.
The volume also includes all the stories not collected by Chopin, including those meant for "A Vocation and a Voice," a projected volume that her publisher canceled in 1900, and three stories that were found in 1992 in a long-lost cache of Chopin's papers.
Nég Créol from the July 1897 issue of The Atlantic Monthly
5 out of 5 stars Rich and rewarding, March 29, 2005
By E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) (TOP 10 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
In the late 1800s, Kate Chopin set the literary world on fire with her now-classic novel "The Awakening." But that wasn't by any means the only writing Chopin did. "Complete Novels and Stories" brings together the assorted writings that Chopin did, before le scandale caused her to swear off writing forever.
Her first novel "At Fault" was apparently something of a roman a clef -- a thirtysomething Creole woman is widowed, and takes over the family estate. She falls in love with a businessman, David -- but he is divorced, and her strong Catholic beliefs don't allow her to marry a divorced man.
"Awakening" was the novel that outraged the Victorian morals and sensibilities of the time, and tragically ended Chopin's writing career. Beautiful wife and mother Edna Pontellier has it all: a wealthy husband, cute kids, beautiful house... and yet she is dissatisfied. So Edna begins dabbling in painting and extramarital flirtations, with tragic results.
"Bayou Folk" and a "Night in Acadie" are collections of short stories, centered in New Orleans and the areas of Louisiana nearby. Breakups, romance, death, marital dissatisfaction, freedom, racism and other still-touchy topics are explored in these stories, although bits of humor do intrude from time to time, such as the very short "Old Aunt Peggy," about an ancient black woman who astonishes everyone by never dying. Added on to these are a number of uncollected stories.
It takes a lot to make a book "scandalous" now, but in the late 1800s -- the height of the Victorian era -- it was painfully easy. There's nothing shocking in Chopin's writing by current standards, leaving her writing as a grave look at human nature. In that sense, Chopin's stories are truly timeless, and not just for women.
Continuing themes do run through Chopin's short stories and novels, such as freedom, social boundaries, and the restrictions put on women at the time. One particularly stunning story is "Desiree's Baby," about a young woman and her child who are cast out because the baby is not 100% white... except that her cruel husband has made a mistake.
But it's not nearly as bleak as it sounds -- Chopin's writing is tempered by her dignified, distant 19th-century writing style, and the beauty of her descriptions. ("There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.") Those descriptions can gloss over plot events as grim as suicide.
"Complete Stories and Novels" is an excellent collection of Kate Chopin's work, and leaves one with regret that she didn't get to write even more during her brief lifetime.
5 out of 5 stars A Fine Collection, July 25, 2007
By A. Williams "Annie EW" (REAL NAME)
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This book is a great collection of Kate Chopin's writings. Chopin truly has a way of portraying women in her writings much differently than society in her day believed they should be. If you read her works knowing this, you will come to respect her work the way I have. I believe that in a time when women weren't allowed to speak out on the injustice they faced in society, and the belief that they couldn't be independent sexual creatures, Kate Chopin was making a stand in her writings to express how complex, independent, and sexual they really were. She is an amazing writer and this is an amazing collection.
5 out of 5 stars Essential to the study of Kate Chopin, November 1, 2009
By Rosemary F. Franklin (Athens, Georgia USA) (REAL NAME)
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This is one of the fine books in the Library of America series, essential to anyone who wishes to read all literature by Kate Chopin. It is the only complete anthology of her fiction.