ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Annie Ernaux is a renowned figure in modern French literature. Born in 1940 in Lille Bonne, France, Ernaux had an inherent talent for writing stories that shed light on the bigger cultural picture. Her works combine personal accounts, fiction, and thoughts about the society in a way that transcends traditional writing. She fearlessly tackles topics like womanhood, family, and memory.
In 2022, Ernaux’s remarkable career reached its peak when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her boldness in unveiling personal memories and exposing hidden societal influences. Beyond this achievement, Ernaux’s body of work, which includes titles like The Years, A Man’s Place, and A Woman’s Story, goes beyond the boundaries of literature. Her writing serves as a mirror for readers to reflect on their lives while also addressing the collective forces that shape our world.
A Frozen Woman by Annie Ernaux is a deeply personal story with a sharp sociological critique that lays bare the unfairness and inequalities ingrained in our society. Through her reflective lens, the narrator skillfully exposes these societal imbalances that often go unnoticed. In the process, she brutally demonstrates how one section of the society is systematically sacrificed to cater to the other.
The story charts the narrator’s journey, commencing with her upbringing in a hardworking yet eccentric family. The little convenience shop her parents ran was a place where there were no mute, submissive women. Her parents worked hard to ensure that she did well at school. Her father would peel potatoes, while her mother would keep the books. The author’s mother teaches her that she shouldn’t hold back, and that she should follow her dreams with everything she has. She also learned at any early age that education is what sets two people apart in this world.
Despite being shielded from “the assumption that tiny girls are delicate and fragile and have separate tasks”, Annie learns otherwise from her peers as she grows up. As young girls, her friends brag about their mothers’ cooking skills, but their interests shift to clothes and men as they get older. By high school, the narrator is lured into their way of thinking, yet she somehow continues to plan for a future after high school. However, her resolve crumbles in her senior year of college when she finds love and gets married. When her pregnancy threatens to derail her finals, she quickly becomes desperate. Even the furniture becomes an “insidious entrapment” that must be taken care of.
She eventually earns her degree, begins teaching, and then realizes that she must, like many other women, juggle two careers: grocery shopping is her reward (or punishment) for “going out” after work when men are free. After yet another pregnancy and seemingly endless chores, she decides that “pursuing a career” is a privilege better left to men. She begins wearing designer clothes and teaching part-time, but describes herself as a “frozen woman”.
Ernaux’s writing reflects the broader sociopolitical landscape, where her struggles mirror the challenges faced by countless women. Her poignant narrative brings to light the intricate web of norms, expectations, and gender roles that work collectively to constrain individual potential. Through her own experiences, Ernaux confronts readers with the subtle, insidious ways in which inequality is perpetuated. She drives home the gravity of how the demands of a woman’s domestic routine erode her enthusiasm and aspirations. This portrayal echoes the more significant societal dynamics where prescribed roles often stifle women’s growth.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT A FROZEN WOMAN
A Frozen Woman by Annie Ernaux is the antithesis of a bildungsroman, for it shows how anyone can slowly succumb to the effects of time. This continues until their responsibilities have sapped them of all initiative. The way the author has described this process is absolutely chilling.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT A FROZEN WOMAN
The book has a feminist, angry, and bitter tone that may not please everyone.
Fragile and vaporish women, spirits with gentle hands, good fairies of the home who silently create beauty and order, mute, submissive women – search as I may, I cannot find many of them in the landscape of my childhood.
Ever since the beginning of the marriage, I’ve had the impression of chasing after an equality that continually eludes me.
A Frozen Woman is a good book for anyone interested in understanding the major cultural shift in terms of how modern society perceives women and womanhood. Through her anecdotes, the author has launched a scathing attack on patriarchy, which both makes the book more relatable and dampens its gravity a little.
A reverential admirer of words, Madhu loves watching them weave their bewitching magic on cozy afternoons.