Lilacs and Other Stories by Kate Chopin

Information

Goodreads: Lilacs and Other Stories
Series: None
Source: Library Book Sale
Published: June 17, 2005

Official Summary

Before she wrote The Awakening — a powerful novel that has illuminated generations of readers with its strikingly honest and controversial themes of female sexuality and miscegenation–Kate Chopin penned many well-received short stories of Creole and Acadian life. Infused with “local color,” these tales are filled with fascinating characters, idiosyncratic customs, and sometimes shocking details.

Reflecting the influences of the French writers Guy de Maupassant and George Sand, “Lilacs” is a heartfelt and simple tale of love, life, and devotion. The compelling work is accompanied by 23 other distinctive tales of southern life, among them “A No-Account Creole” and “Love on the Bon-Dieu,” from Bayou Folk, and “A Matter of Prejudice,” “The Lilies,” and “Dead Men’s Shoes” from A Night in Acadie.

Review

Kate Chopin is best known for The Awakening (and possibly not much else), so stumbling across this collection of short stories she had published in various places during her lifetime as part of her efforts to make a living from writing, was interesting to me. The forward of my edition notes that the stories largely fall into the local-color movement of the 1890s, and Chopin probably drew on “the Creole society of her married life” as her inspiration. In short, the stories don’t really deliver the same aesthetic or worldview as The Awakening, which was somewhat a surprise to me and may be to other readers, as well.

First, when the forward mentions Chopin’s Creole society, what it seems to mean is that Chopin and her husband lived in New Orleans and were familiar with, but not part of, Creole society. The stories are what one would expect from local-color stories from the nineteenth century and, of course, do not reflect modern viewpoints on things like race, representation of dialect in writing, etc. I think Chopin generally has respect for her subjects and seems truly interested in representing the variety and nuances of their life experiences, but it was still the 1890s.

In terms of plot, the stories are just alright. Chopin occasionally goes for a small twist at the end, but none of the stories really took me by surprise. The selection in the book does at least vary in terms of whether the stories are sad, happy, maudlin, etc., which I appreciated. (Too many short story collections are put together by theme, which frequently results in the stories all sounding vaguely the same.) I don’t know, however, that I would go out of my way to recommend this book to others.

Mostly, however, I was interested in how different many of these stories seem from The Awakening. As a disclaimer, I don’t really like The Awakening and I don’t totally agree that abandoning your family is necessarily a great feminist message; however, I was struck by how differently some of these short stories tackle issues like marriage and gender relations. Some of them read as essentially the opposite of The Awakening, with women ultimately caving to the perseverance of men they have no interest in because…why not, I guess.

If you like Kate Chopin, these stories would be a good thing to look into. If you just want an interesting short story collection, you can probably find more entertaining things to read.

3 Stars Briana

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4 thoughts on “Lilacs and Other Stories by Kate Chopin

  1. Andrea says:

    This is interesting… but it also seems a bit weird? The whole leaving your family is, as you said, not necessarily feminist? I’m lost tbh I don’t know what to think of this book. Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve never liked The Awakening because I just don’t see how pursuing an adulterous relationship is feminist. I get that the wife is supposed to have agency by choosing to have a relationship with someone other than her husband who apparently doesn’t understand her. But I don’t really feel like it’s a positive message to tell people that it’s okay to 1) break vows and 2) to throw your family under the bus for your own pleasure. She has children who are going to be affected by her actions–socially stigmatized, emotionally affected, etc. I just don’t see selfishness as feminist.

      Nor do I think the average person would laud adultery if it were occurring in real life and not in a book. Yes, the book is set in a historical time period and people typically use that as a reason to support adultery and other illicit romances (the idea that the woman must’ve been coerced into a relationship she never wanted, so it’s okay now for her to break her public vows of faithfulness). But I still don’t think people generally celebrate cheating in real life so it’s weird that readers are apparently supposed to think cheating is an admirable show of agency when it occurs in fiction.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ikram Reads says:

    I 1000% agree with everything you said about The Awakening. I had to read it earlier this year for English Lit and couldn’t get behind the whole “feminist” message behind it. It definitely made for some interesting discussions in class. Other than that the book was meh to me. I might end up trying some of her other stuff in the future though.
    Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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