Monday, February 27, 2017

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I went back and forth on the review for this. This is one of those novels where I was torn between  mild enjoyment and   extreme dissatisfaction. Granted, I will admit that I had heard so many rave reviews that I excepted something brilliant. I didn’t technically hate this book, or even dislike this book, but I didn’t love it.

So — after some serious thought, I decided I rate this a solid 2.5. It’s not quite a 3 (likable; even likely to reread), but it’s also not a 2 (dislikable; impossible to read again). This is one of those ‘okay’ novels for me.

The narrator, Cadence, is from a wealthy WASP family. She’s part of a group called ‘The Liars’ which includes her, her two cousins Johnny and Mirren and Gat. Out of these four, I only found myself interested in Gat.

Mirren, Johnny, and Cadence are embodiments of long standing  Anglo-Saxon old-money.  In contrast: Gat is poor and Indian.

Gat — while technically accepted into the Liars — is not ‘truly’ accepted. Cadence’s grandfather shows a distaste for him; a mixture of financial and racially charged reasons. Gat is hyper aware of his status. He’s also smart and highly self-aware. Out of all the characters, I found Gat the most interesting.

I honestly would’ve preferred a book from Gat’s perspective rather than Cadence’s. I thought Gat was a wonderful character. He was smart; socially, culturally, and book-wise. Yet instead of focusing on these wonderful attributes, Cadence just discusses his looks and rambles on aimlessly if he 'loves' her. Cadence's love of Gat often reads more like an obsession or infatuation.

Cadence is not a narrator that I can find myself enjoying. She’s highly dramatic, sheltered form reality, and lacks any self-awareness. While she positions herself as someone who is better than her relatives, she is honestly no less privileged; either mentally or financially. She shows disinterest to the ‘help’ and often lacks the ability to comprehend what Gat is saying in reference to  his outsider status.

I think Lockhart was framing Cadence and Gat as Heathcliff and Catherine. Let me preface: Wuthering Heights is my favorite novel. Now with that knowledge, I am not a fan of Catherine. However, may I add, she’s interesting. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, and even spiteful — but she’s captivating. And despite Catherine's perpetual selfishness, she's self-assured and even understandable to the reader.

Cadence is none of these things. For instance: she decides to give away everything in her room. I suppose this is an act of rebellion against her wealth; a figurative way of saying, "I am not ONE of THOSE wealthy people!" Instead it reads as laughable.

Cadence encompasses the worst of Catherine — the obliviousness to others, the obsessiveness, and even the the natural pompousness that status affords. Except she’s not interesting to me. Nor am I relating to her. Catherine can make you relate; make you feel. Heathcliff also possesses this ability, even as a ‘heinous villain’ in the second half of the novel. The same with Heathcliff and Catherine. Even if you think their 'love' is crazed, frenzied and abusively charged (as many readers feel): it's undeniable that Heathcliff and Catherine both feel passionately towards one another.

If Gat and Cadence are supposed to be Catherine and Heathcliff, I dare say that there's zero passion. Even as a girl, Catherine was aware of how different Heathcliff was treated. Where's Cadence self-awareness to this matter in regards to Gat?

Why did I feel such a lack of connection to Cadence? I think is mostly the narration itself and the prose used.

Let me grab a quote from the book, so you can see what I mean by the sheer absurdness of it.

“Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound,
then from my eyes,
my ears,
my mouth.”

You may read this and think, “Oh my goodness! She’s shot! Is she dying? Is she alright?” To answer your question: she’s fine. Cadence is merely describing how she feels. Yes, I am not writing in jest. This is an actual description of her feelings. This is a keen example of how difficult it is to like her.

Purple prose is not something I enjoy. I hated the indentations, half completed sentences and ridiculous usage of figurative speaking.

Not only was Cadence unlikable, she was unreliable. I won’t address the ending which has been discussed a lot. However, I will add that the ending didn’t wrap things up for me. It only made Cadence more unreliable.

So suffice to say, I was not particularly enamored by this. I found Cadence’s cousins to be as likable as she was. Nor was I interested in Harris (the patriarch) who manipulated his family with sociopathic precision. While, I will self-admittedly say, I did find the dynamics of a wealthy WASPY family to be interesting. I have always found a certain type of fascination for the colossal wealthy. The Sinclair family is not only immensely wealthy, but immensely dysfunctional.

Except this novel spent more time on its migraine inducing purple prose instead of actually following a plot-line. Or even focusing on interesting things — such as the family dynamics,  the of classism, Gat, etc.

So in short: I didn’t hate this book. I wouldn’t say I liked this book… but there were parts I wanted more of; particularly Gat! If you’re able to tolerate the odd purple pose and the narrator than I think you may enjoy it — or at least feel like I did that it’s an ‘alright’ book. Most of my distaste for the book comes from Cadence and Lockhart’s purple pose. I also found the ‘plot-twist’ to be less thrilling and more-so… weird and not particularly sensible in regards to the entire book’s plot.

This is one of those books that I won’t ever read again, but don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it. I’m curious what Lockhart will write in the future. Hopefully, if she writes anything that I deem interesting that she’ll retire her usage of purple pose.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

And A Voice to Sing With: A Memoir by Joan Baez

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:

The perfect time for a reissue: In October 2009, PBS will air a ninety-minute primetime special on Joan Baez as part of the Emmy Award-winning American Masters series. Told often from Baez's perspective, but supported by a rich performance and historical archive, the documentary centers on her career as a musician, power as an artist, those who influenced her, and those she championed. She will also be on a 27-city U.S. tour starting July 2009 . . . A musical force and a catalyst for social change: At the age of eighteen Baez was an international star with a Time magazine cover story; fifty years later she has thirty-three albums to her credit. She also marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., was jailed for supporting the draft resistance, and sang in the first Amnesty International tour. An extraordinary woman who has led an eventful life, Baez's memoir is as honest, unpretentious, and courageous as she is.

Joan Baez has been a long time fascination to me. I discovered Baez through Bob Dylan. Of course, I craved to know more about a woman who meant so much to my most very favorite, dear and special musician.

I soon was captivated by her voice; soprano, lucid and unlike any other musician that I know of. Through online research, I learned quite a bit about her. I had always admired her passions; especially for her campaigns for human justice. Throughout the years, I've followed her on social media and watched her 75th birthday celebration on PBS. I've been a fan at this point now for quite a few years. 

Somehow until a few days before buying this, I was unaware that she had written an auto-biography! I was stunned. I knew I immediately needed to read it. 

Baez’s voice in this memoir is raw. There’s no self-editing; she’s honest about her flaws, her insecurities and doesn’t try to paint her life as a beautiful photo without smudging. 

She’s honest not only about herself, but others. I was fascinated by so much of it. She talks about Dylan’s issues (for instance) and the issues within her own family. She is brutally, — yet gently — honest. I think it may be one of the rawest and honest auto-biographies that I’ve read.

I admire how she hadn’t tried to filter herself or her story. She speaks of her childhood until her age at writing the novel. It fascinated me. She has one of those writing tones that make you feel as if you're  there with  her. 

You’re singing on-stage with her; you’re marching for human’s rights! You're performing on-stage with thousands of fans; you're trying to survive a bombing in Vietnam! Baez's emotions fall out of every word. It's without question that Baez possess a magnitude of many deep emotions for everything; it radiates out of not only her writing, but her life story. F

rom the rich illustrations of her eclectic wardrobe to the sweet sentiments of her son; it's absolutely lovely. 

While I do admit that the novel can seem almost long-winded at times. That's mostly why I rate this as a four star book. It just seemed at times so long-winded that it was hard to continue on. 

Despite that, I was captivated for majority of the book. It was easily one of the best memoirs that I’ve read.Then again, I suppose I shouldn’t think anything less than a brilliant book when it comes to Joan Baez. If you have any interest in folk, the sixties and or seventies, or a deep love of Dylan (such as myself): I cannot recommend this enough! 

Rainbow and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I'm not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we're 16. 
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I'm not kidding, he says.
You should be. 
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under.
Eleanor is a curly haired redhead with a strange sense of fashion. She's also poor, lives in an abusive home and has two emotionally abusive parents. Besides her abusive biological parents, her step-father is also extremely abusive; both verbally and physically.

Park is biracial; his mom is from Korea and his dad is a tough war veteran. He likes indie music. He also only wears black and is one of the few non-white kids in the neighborhood. In short: Park and Eleanor are both atypical, both 'others' and both seemingly misplaced.

I guess you could call it fate when Eleanor and Park end up sharing a bus seat; quickly morphing from strangers who irritate one another, to kind of friends who hold hands and share music to dating one another.

I feel like this is one of those books that I liked, but definitely didn't love. The parts that annoyed me really annoyed me. Such as the random grammatical errors which I found distracting (iE, the wrong amount of periods in the ellipses or the half completed sentences, etc). 

The quick shift in the relationship that happened between Park and Eleanor was irritating to me, too, as I was reading it. I think the alternating POVS -- as well as the writing style -- made it hard for me to connect to the characters.

I did like that Eleanor was plus sized. We need more plus-sized characters, especially in YA. The same way that I enjoyed that Park was biracial. I think diversity is important! I think it was interesting to see their lives juxtaposition since they both were unlike their peers in a lot of ways. Park wasn't white, Eleanor was poor, etc.

I felt that the novel danced around a lot of issues. For example: Park expresses issues with his body because he's Korean. It's a topic that really is interesting because there's a huge focus to be blonde, have blue eyes, etc. There's a huge focus to be the most attractive, but there's a very one-sided view of attractiveness in America. But after Eleanor says that are in fact hot Asian guys (she uses Bruce Lee as an example), it's completely forgotten.

Even though Eleanor is poor, why does it never come up except in passing? I don't think that the author was trying to dance around the issues necessarily. 

I think it was more so that there was just so much going on plot-wise that it was hard to accurately address every issue. I loved how the issues were raised (how often do we see male hero bring up body issues?) but I felt like they never got their conclusion.

Honestly the most frustrating thing to me was the ending. One of the reasons why I did enjoy "Eleanor and Park" was because it did feel real. I could really see Eleanor escaping her abusive home with her new relationship and Park struggling with what it meant to be "Korean." 

It really did remind me of what it felt like to be so mesmerized by somebody that you can't believe they're real.

But the ending? I have a hard time believing that Park's father would allow him and his fifteen year old girlfriend to drive numerous states away to bring her to her uncle's house. Just process for that for a minute: their sure fire plan is to drive to Eleanor's uncle's house when Eleanor hasn't even double-checked that her uncle still lives there or is okay with her staying there. 

I felt bad that Eleanor didn't think of her siblings, but I understand that she's just a kid too. The siblings, I can understand. However, not calling her uncle? It's the 1980s, not the 1890s! Telephones exist!

Mostly I was just blown away at Park's parents for not being actual parents in this situation. I could see if it Park and Eleanor ran away together (without consent) to her uncle's, but the fact that Park's dad knew was so frustrating. I was also so mad, too, for Park being angry that Eleanor fell asleep. 

I was also upset that Eleanor never returned any letters or notes. Even if she just wrote a letter that said, "Park, I can't handle long distance relationships. Let's break up." The idea of just stringing the relationship without closure was so scary. I also found it totally OOC for Park's parents to be okay with this.

I don't think I will ever reread this, but I am looking forward to reading "Fangirl."

Even though I didn't see the loving devotion that it gets, I definitely see why people liked it. I may sound critical, but I genuinely did like it. It's just not what I was excepting. To me, it wasn't an outstanding YA novel. 

However, it was a nice read, despite my issues with it. I think this could have much, much more -- if it was executed differently. Despite it, I'm looking forward to Rowell's other works.

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

Official Book Summary:
Davey has never felt so alone in her life. Her father is dead—shot in a holdup—and now her mother is moving the family to New Mexico to try to recover.

Climbing in the Los Alamos canyon, Davey meets the mysterious Wolf, who can read Davey’s “sad eyes.”

Wolf is the only person who seems to understand the rage and fear Davey feels.

Slowly, with Wolf’s help, Davey realizes that she must get on with her life. But when will she be ready to leave the past behind and move toward the future? Will she ever stop hurting?

Davey is fifteen, an Atlantic City native and in most ways is a typical teenaged girl. Until the night  that her father is fatally shot at his 7-11 by burglars.

Suddenly, she’s fatherless and living in great distress by the sudden and violent oriented loss of her father. 

Davey, her mother and her younger brother and leave to take a ‘vacation’ to her aunt and uncle’s home in New Mexico. 

However as Davey’s mother’s depression worsens, it becomes decided that the family will be staying for the school-year. 

She’s no longer surrounded by the beach, her best friend or her boyfriend  Hugh. Davey also actively misses her father.

This book weaves loss with expert precision. It shows how loss, especially sudden grief, is not easy. It explores what it looks like to have a mother experience intensive and acute depression, to fight through haunting memories, to helping your friend’s alcohol issues or what it looks  to overcome fears.

Davey meets ‘Wolf’ (as he calls himself) during hiking. Her aunt and uncle who are afraid of everything are not knowledgeable of Davey’s hiking adventures. Davey and Wolf have an interesting connection. I would’ve love for the book to delve more into Wolf; not events a romantic sense. It just felt that there was so much more there; not just in Wolf, but also Davey  herself. I think that’s what made me only rate this book a three. It felt that there was so much more of a story to tell. 

 While her interactions with Wolf are on the minimal side, Davey finds peace again. With not only herself, but with her family — especially with  the loss of her father.  I think what I found most poignant was when Davey finally confronts her worst fear: the night that her father was shot. When she buried the clothing that she was wearing that night which were covered in her father’s blood, I found it really profound. 

While I didn’t think the ending was the best, I did enjoy that the family is shown to prosper, despite the loss.  

I think this is definitely one of  the much better books that I’ve read in the YA genre on death. It’s raw, realistic and doesn’t promote the idea that ‘true love’ will heal loss. The latter happens to be a very common YA trope that I find so irritable to read. 

I wish, however, that Blume had given a follow-up to this novel. Not for an ending for Wolf and Davey, but just to explore how much felt missing throughout the novel to me. 


Overall, I did enjoy it! Granted, I do find faults in the seemingly blankness that seems  to exist in the book. However, I did find it really enjoyable and enjoy the writing style. If you’re in the mood for a YA novel that deals with deeper issues — such as loss, depression, teenaged alcoholism, et.c — than I would definitely recommend it. 


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review of Love Your Curls by Taiye Selasi

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:
Through global research, Dove Hair uncovered that only 4 out of 10 little girls with curly hair in the U.S. think their hair is beautiful.*, They also found that girls are more likely to feel beautiful and proud of their curls when people around them do.

In 2015, Dove Hair launched the Love Your Curls campaign and film to encourage women and girls of all ages to celebrate their curls and inspire future generations to do the same. The Love Your Curls book is a poetic tribute to curly hair, composed of the beautiful stories and photos that poured in as a result of the campaign.

Download, dedicate and share the Dove Hair Love Your Curls e-book. Visit Dove.com/LoveYourCurls to create a personalized version with a custom dedication, poem and watercolor illustration. Then share it with the curly girls in your life on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest with #LoveYourCurls.
*Dove Hair Study Conducted by Edelman Berland, October 2014.
Do you have curly hair? Does your daughter have curly hair? Do you have a loved one -- whether niece, cousin, or even a beloved non-relative -- with curly hair? If so -- this is the ideal book for you.

I've struggled for a lifetime with my curls. I always felt 'ugly' or odd for being blessed with my father's hair texture. Unlike my father's hair, my mother's hair is baby-fine, perfectly straight and very thin. In comparison to my mother's hair: my hair is very thick, curly, and coarse like my father's. It's coarse enough that people have even proclaimed, "Wow! Your hair is like a wiry piece of yarn," or even acknowledged it to feel like curly horse hair. (Yes, really.)

I've spent many years of my life thinking my hair was "hopeless." It was hopelessly big, hopelessly curly, hopelessly dry... and hopelessly unlike what I saw be marketed as beautiful hair in the magazines. I can't say that I ever hated my hair because I never did. I always loved my curls and valued them over having straight hair... but I never knew how to really care for my hair. I realized that not knowing how to properly care for your hair is a big factor in why people with curly hair get so frustrated easily. Even if they love their curly locks (like I did), they simply do not know how to maintain them and feel so lost (like I also did).

After feeling like there was something that had to be done about my hair, I Googled and found some information online about my hair. This past summer, in fact, is when I found NaturallyCurly.com. It changed my life! My curls are the healthiest, curliest, and prettiest that they have ever been. Not only do they look pretty, but I finally feel pretty for having curly hair.

Why should I hate something that makes me stand out? That reminds me of my family (my father's parents both also had very curly hair) and ancestral land? Why should I hate something that makes me an individual?

The poems in the book are full of ways to love your hair; it says all of the beautiful things about curls that little girls (in particular) need to hear. It's also inclusive of all curls -- whether they be curls, coils, or even waves. I found it be so inclusive and heartwarming. I really wish that were more books like this!

It was one of the sweetest books that I've read in a long time. I loved how the poems were able to capture the poetic essence of curly hair -- including the self-esteem issues from not having 'pretty' hair, to the fun of it, and the care that it needs. One of my biggest stepping stones was realizing that my curls need more love than if they were straight locks.

If I had a little curly girl in my life, I'd definitely gift her this book in particular! If you know a little curly one: this would make a great book for her. I can only imagine that these poems would be so fun to read to a little one! Even if you don't have a little one: you'll love reading these cute little poems to yourself if you have any curly locks.

This book is a sure way to warm a Curly Girl's heart! :)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Review of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anna Brashares



My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:

Carmen got the jeans at a thrift shop. They didn't look all that great: they were worn, dirty, and speckled with bleach. On the night before she and her friends part for the summer, Carmen decides to toss them. But Tibby says they're great. She'd love to have them. Lena and Bridget also think they're fabulous. Lena decides that they should all try them on. Whoever they fit best will get them. Nobody knows why, but the pants fit everyone perfectly. Even Carmen (who never thinks she looks good in anything) thinks she looks good in the pants.  
Over a few bags of cheese puffs, they decide to form a sisterhood and take the vow of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . the next morning, they say good-bye. And then the journey of the pants — and the most memorable summer of their lives — begins.
When we moved this winter, I rediscovered the entire box of the series. Amazingly despite the fact that I have read almost every book in my collection of over 700 books, I have never read this series! The novels were even still in their original box packaging untouched. In the same way that the 'Sisters' found the pants, I found the series. 

The novel starts out with one of the main characters, Carmen, narrating from first person. 

Carmen is sharp-witted, sensitive, and the writer  of the group. We're then introduced to the other Sisters. The sensitive artist is Lena; she also happens to be extremely beautiful and shy. Tibby is the eclectic one; she's interested in making movies. Lastly there's Bridget. She's a soccer star who is so full of energy. The girls have been friends for their entire life; their mothers befriended one another during a pregnancy class. 

Carmen goes shopping with Lena one time and buys an old pair of jeans at a thrift store. As she's ready to throw them out, Tibby speaks up and likes them. Carmen, without thinking, gives them to her to try on. Magically the pants fit not only Tibby, but Carmen (who was pushed into trying them on). Not only them, but Bridget and Lena, as well. The 'Pants' somehow fit them all wonderfully. Almost like the pants are magic themselves. 

It's the first summer that the girls will be away from one another, so they decide to share the Pants throughout their adventure. Each girl will wear the jeans then send them onto the next girl. Each girl goes on an adventure so far away from one another, but they still manage to share their summer together through the pants and letter-writing.

Lena and her younger sister, Effie, spent the summer at her grandparents' house in Greece. Lena's sister, Effie is outgoing and lively; she's so much unlike Lena. I loved seeing Lena and Effie juxtaposition one another throughout their adventures. It was really nice to see the connection that they shared, even if they're opposites. 

As Lena spends more time in Greece, she bonds more with her grandfather that she affectionately calls her Bapi.  Maybe it's because Southern Italians are so close to Greeks, but Lena's grandfather reminded me so much of my beloved Nonno. 

Greece really brought out Lena's spirit and her artistry skills. The magic of the pants and Effie's sound love advice even gives Lena the confidence to confess her love to Kostas. I really loved seeing how the girls were the strongest when together or when wearing the pants. I really thought it was beautiful. 

Carmen goes to spend the summer with her estranged father, Al, in South Carolina. Her father left her and her mother when she was little, so she has such high hopes for their summer. 

Much to her surprise, her father doesn't live alone like she thought he did. He's engaged to a woman with two children from a previous marriage and they're planning on getting married by the end of summer. Carmen is half Puerto Rican, but favors it the most over her father's side. Carmen slowly feels like she's suffocating; partially from the feeling that that she does not belong in their 'picture perfect' family, the subtle racism from her step-mother, and from the fact that her supposed summer with her dad is nothing like she planned.

One night after looking at her picturesque new family, Carmen snaps and throws a rock through her father's window. She packs all of her things and heads back to Maryland. Tibby and her mother work through 

Carmen's summer to me was easily the second most heart-breaking.  There's something about the idea of an estranged father moving onto another family that really broke my heart We see Carmen's idea of her estranged father slowly fall apart. Of course, her best friends are there to help her recover. By the end of her novel, we're seeing a new side of Carmen that comes to grips with the issues caused from her father's abandonment.

I truly loved how the girls -- despite their vast differences -- were so unwavering in their love and affection for one another.  A lot of times in novels geared to teenaged girls, it's usually friendships laced with cattiness, backstabbing, etc. 

This novel was about friendship. Even when we saw the girls voice their concerns about the distance from one another: I never doubted in their friendship. There was no cattiness; just love, growing up, and what it means to find your own self identity as a young girl.

Overall, this was an excellent book! I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. I also loved how serious topics -- such as losing your mother, parent abandonment, first love, illness, etc. -- were written in a way that was able to connect with you. The story didn't lean on typical arcs like a cliche. I really loved how serious and realistic topics were weaved into the girls' lives.

If you're looking for something that captures girl friendship, identity, growing up and serious topics in an attainable way: than this may be ideal for you! It's able to take you into the shoes of each girl... and in the end, you may just wish you had your own pair of special pants to share with a lifelong best friend.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review of The Awakening by Kate Chopin

My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:

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 from 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.

I thought that I was going to love this book. It had everything that I loved -- New Orleans (my favorite city), a masterpiece of classical literature, a deep romantic classical read and a honest telling of life in the early 1900s for upper-class Creole people. Not only that, but I heard that this was the most feminist book ever written that featured a complex heroine.

So in short: I thought that I was going to fall in love with it. How could I not?

Well... it's safe to say that I was wrong. I was utterly and completely wrong.

Chopin's novel wasn't very thick. However somehow, despite how fast that I read, it took me almost two weeks to finish! Granted -- some of the time was due to my schedule. Though to be truthful, I definitely did not want to read it either. It was almost a blessing not having the time.

Edna Pontellier is the main character of the novel.

She's an upper-class wife of a Creole man named, Leonce. Edna unlike her husband was from an old, colonial American family in Kentucky and grew up Presbyterian. Their differences in culture are often noted with a sense that Edna is not a fan of the Creole world; as if she's simply observing an alternative world that she feels no connection to -- nor wishes to. Edna feels in all ways that she is trapped.

Edna and Leonce have two young boys who are often expressed with a tone of monotony. As Edna herself notes, she loves her children but doesn't feel that sense of maternal love that she sees in other women. Like so many things in Edna's world, they are often disregarded in juxtaposition to her current desires. Her sons were only acknowledged in passing; either to mention the nanny, that her mother in-law thinks she's unfit or that Leonce is a much better parent. These are all things that Edna admits without a sense of shame.

While summering in New Mexico, Edna becomes infatuated with a young man named Robert. Robert becomes the all-consuming love to Edna; her actions, her thoughts and her entire being seem to cling to him. Robert (as noted by a minor character) is often a flirt with the married women. Yet, Edna is the first married woman to take Robert for anything but some fun. For Edna, he symbolizes so much more than a fling. He symbolizes her lack of "freedom," that she feels by being a mother and wife.

After summering, we see Edna become more and more unattached to her life -- especially her husband. She wants more freedom and enjoys rebelling against her husband's wishes. I felt no connection to Edna throughout her change. She was often cold, selfish and thought of no regards except in passing.

I think my lack of connection with Edna wasn't so much because she was defying female stereotypes (such as the notion all females want to be a mother, etc) but because Chopin spent too much time describing trivial descriptions or conversations. The chapters were short, crisp and often left me wondering why Edna was behaving or feeling as she did.

I understand that Chopin was describing a taboo topic -- the idea that a woman may not want to be a wife and mother. I think it's wonderful that Chopin, despite the restrictions of her time, felt so strongly about this topic. However, the novel is so all-over the place. It jumps from a seemingly irrelevant conversation to a profound, poetic expression.

In short: it gave me a headache.
Mostly because I was never able to understand any character. It's not because Edna was careless and selfish. It was because she was never given any character development. The character development she had was very short. I think with anti-heroes/heroines that a backstory is important. With Edna, the most backstory that we get is that she was a wild young girl who was prone to infatuations. Would an explanation make Edna a better mother? No... but it would make it easier for the reader to build a connection with her.

There's also a sense of racial superiority that Edna feels that is echoed throughout the novel. It made me very uncomfortable.

Even more because I have yet to see anyone notice the way that Edna describes her Creole husband with a sense that she's superior in culture. The Creoles are displayed with a sense of far-away wording. The way that Edna describes the Spanish servant, Mariequita, is said with such a sense of disdain; as if her 'seductress' ways could not be helped due to her heritage. I think Edna's worst trait was not her lack of feeling, but her feeling of such entitlement.

There was so much focus on Edna -- her feelings, her desires and her infatuation -- that other interesting characters such as her husband and even Robert are pushed aside. There's such a lack of conviction when it comes to what even drives Edna to feel as she does. Every action of hers is rounded up to selfishness and detachment, even by herself. How is anyone supposed to connect with a character that doesn't even seem to connect with herself?

I haven't read something that incited so much apathy since reading Hawthorne. I love classical literature and period pieces. You can convince me to read almost everyone, but never Hawthorne again. The idea of poking myself in the eye is more appealing. Seriously.

There is absolutely no love in my heart for Hawthorne. One of the reasons why Hawthorne instantly comes to mind (besides my obvious dissatisfaction with both of their novels) is that Chopin, like Hawthorne, is repetitive and dry. However, while Chopin is lackluster with her writing: her prose is nothing short of beautiful.

I think Chopin is a genius of expressions which is why I rated this 1.5. She has a poetic sense of description that chills your bone. Though I felt that the characters often didn't emote -- her voice as a narrator was so emotional at parts that it juxtaposed the coldness and blandness of some of the characters. I think some writers were meant to be poets, not writers. Chopin spent so much time on useless details (much like Hawthorne has a tendency to) then would jump to a character's action.

I think this novel would have been much, much better if it was expanded and edited. I think Chopin could have written a true masterpiece, if only she had the help of an editor or spent more time on her novel. I understand how delicate of an issue that she was writing which I think was her downfall with this novel.

This is a classic that I cannot recommend nor even say that I enjoyed it. But if you're possibly interested in it, I can say that it is a short read and there are beautiful prose lines in it which is about the kindest that I can say.