A fascinating book. It is an early feminist novel, but suffers from the same flaws as the protagonist. The book is written in the third person, but is glued to the main character's location and perspective, which is a style of writing that I like.
The main character "awakens" by rejecting her marriage to a man she does not love and her role as mother. What I find fascinating about the book is that while it is articulating modern concepts of independence of women and so forth, the main character is in fact entirely selfish and treats all the other characters in the book like garbage. Her husband is really quite a good husband by the standards of 1897 New Orleans and she blows hot and cold at her children and her other love interests. The main character and the author are oblivious to the damage that this would cause.
So what is interesting is this tension between laudable, ahead of its time feminism and these feminist attitudes being used to justify a complete lack of empathy on the part of the main character who really does just use people. The book and the author are as oblivious to this trait of the character as the character is.
The book is totally real, apart from the end which seemed melodramatic and forced to me. The prose style is OK.
I'm going to give the book three stars, but it is really a must read, because it is such an interesting book to think about.
Update: I'm currently reading The Bell Jar, which does not have much in common with this book other than they are both feminist novels, but The Bell Jar has me thinking again about this book.
I think that The Awakening resembles for me Sons and Lovers and Brideshead Revisited in that it has a protagonist that one feels is based closely on the author and who is also essentially an evil human being and the book is oblivious to that. In all three cases the suffering and unfairness that the protagonist experiences, appears to be used to justify treating anybody in any fashion they so choose.
Of the three books, I think this one is the best. I still do not like the ending, which the more I think about, the more unbelievable I find, but otherwise it is a very very good book told from what is essential a position of extreme self-centeredness. Very good work and the best of the great novels that justify raving narcissism. I've upped it a star, because I don't think that I should knock a book just because there appears to be something wrong with the author.
This might seem like I am being facetious, but I pretty much mean what I say in this review.