Instructed to abandon her intellectual life and avoid stimulating company, she sinks into a still-deeper depression invisible to her husband, who believes he knows what is best for her. Alone in the yellow-wallpapered nursery of a rented house, she descends into madness.
(P)2008 Summersdale Publishers Ltd
As an Audible Editor I listen for a living! British classics, YA novels, speculative fiction, and anything quirky, fascinating, or heart-wrenching.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novella is one of those stories that reminds me to be thankful that I live when I do. It's about a woman who is suffering from postpartum depression before postpartum depression existed. Instead, women suffered from “exhaustion,” “a case of nerves,” or (the best gender-specific illness of all time) “hysteria.” She submits to the forced regime of rest prescribed by her doctor husband, and the inactivity and removal from her child throws her headfirst into a depressive spiral. Especially strong in audio - the narration here is gentle, real, and creepy all at once. Jo Myddleton’s voice begins calm and rises in desperation as the protagonist descends into madness. The panic and claustrophobia is tangible. You’ll get angry. You’ll want to protest something. Your inner-feminist (guys too - you know she’s in there) will awaken. It’s awesome.
There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin
When I first listened to the story a year ago, I was deeply moved and shaken. It took me so much time to listen to it again. I must say it's not just a spooky story of a woman showing signs of incipient madness, as it might seem. It's a protest against quack psychiatrists of the 19th century, who instead of curing patients ended up complicating their mental illness.
The story is autobiographical. Being unstable, C.P. Gilman suffered from nervous breakdowns herself. She turned to a physician, whose treatment methods proved to be ineffective. C.P. Gilman was subdued to the domestic sphere, was allowed to have only two hours' intellectual stimulation, and was prevented from working. Deprived from normal life, she nearly slipped into insanity. Only when Gilman returned to work, did she manage to recover.
As Charlotte Perkins Gilman put it, the story "was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy".
This is one of those short stories some high school literature teachers have students read as a "classic". Yes, it is a classic, but can only be fully understood and appreciated when one is an adult. Psychologically speaking, anyone can go mad if presented with the right circumstances. Some escape those circumstances; others do not. This is the case of the main character of this short story. Post-partem depression linked with a controlling husband linked with separation from the outside world force this young bride and mother into a world that only she can see and comprehend. And while the outside world sees her as having gone mad, from her perspective she has only tried to free herself, and does so. The listener sees it step-by-step and it makes sense. The other characters, practically ignoring her throughout the story see her at Step A and then again at Step Z and to them it makes no sense at all, adding to the tragedy. It is a well written, well read tale.
Yes, because I want to know what their reaction is.
The end. I was creeped out and almost hypnotized by the slow descent into complete madness. I knew what happened, but at the same time was thinking "what did I just listen to?"
I have never listened to her before, but she was a perfect fit for this narration in my opinion.
Loved her voice please have her do more. I would love to listen to her all day long
I'm suggesting this to all of my friends
I listened to this book without knowing anything about it, and I was pleased how many different meanings there are to what I heard. It's interesting to read after the fact other reviews that say the story means one particular thing. To me it's not that straight forward at all.
I have no wish to spoil the book by giving my own interpretations but will leave it at I saw the common explanations as the least likely :)
A really excellent reading of this iconic short story - the reader gives a very polished performance in which she gradually builds in intensity to match the increasingly hallucinatory nature of the prose. This reading would be a great way to experience the story for the first time or to re-experience it in a new light.
Her dreamy sing song like voice was perfect for this book.
The lady behind the print.
Its like entries from a diary so not much depth just watching voyeuristic exports of a womans descends into madness
But I think that means I need to read it again. Definitely a mind bender. Gilman reminds me a bit of Lovecraft's style, abstract and using plays on perspective to create uncertainty and doubt. Also reminiscent of the Spanish Modernist style of the late 19th century, the confusion caused by loneliness and helplessness made me think of El Hijo by Horacio Quiroga. Good read! Good reader too!
When I first read this remarkable story I was overwhelmed with sadness and sympathy. Although written back in the 1890s, one could make parallels today about misinterpreted and misdiagnosed conditions which could easily mirror this poor woman's situation. Jo Myddelton reads with complete empathy for her character's dilemma and her tones, initially perfectly acceptable and 'normal' become so subtly altered it gave me goosebumps. A remarkable performance indeed.
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