The Story of Avis
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The Story of Avis

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  119 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Paperback, 312 pages
Published June 1st 1985 by Rutgers University Press (first published 1877)
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This book is by a little-known bestselling American woman author in the nineteenth century. It is about a woman who feels she has to sacrifice her art (she is a painter) for marriage and children. Her husband ultimately is not financially stable and she ends up facing difficulties. This is similar to the author's own life. I wrote my longest graduate term paper and the image of the Sphinx that the main character paints in this book. I must have gone to the Library of Congress in search for prima...more
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May 03, 2008 CELIA rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of Chopin, feminist scholars, artists, women
Recommended to CELIA by: Dr. Rita Deutsch--what a course that was!
Was thinking of this book last night (I've loaned it out and don't expect to get it back . . . these things haunt me at bedtime) and realized I had not catalogued it. This is a fantastic novel from the late C19 that chronicles how the lead character, Avis, compromises her artistic talent to succumb to the demands of domesticity. Similar to Chopin's The Awakening, it is a meditation on woman's role as wife and self, but it is a more extended treatment, more realistic than Chopin's. Phelps deals l...more
This book is uncharacteristic of 19th century women's fiction, in that it reads more like the fiction men were writing of the time. Which is probably why I liked it better than all of the other books I've been required to read for my 19th/20th century women's literature class.

Avis tries so hard to become an artist, but gives up and hopes for the dream to come true for her own daughter, rather than herself. A twist on the "I live vicariously through my children" that is generally played out in t...more
Such a pleasure to read, I enjoyed every page. But I'm used to 19th century writing and don't find it tiresome.
This is the story of a woman who possesses the talent and the discipline to become a great artist, but who loses the opportunity when she finally agrees to marry. The novel is written in such a way that no one is really at fault, her "failure" is simply the way life is...women are, in many ways, prisoners of their biology. Phelps' writing style is beautiful; I love the way she uses paint colors in her descriptions of people and settings. I think any woman who has felt the tug of career and sacri...more
Fun, cheesy, overdone. I like its slow pace and patient observation. Plus, Avis gets drunk and has a vision.
Alia Makki
Careful with feminine narrations, this books is littered with rambling sets of them.

That said, I love how the author carefully unfolded "romantic love" vs. "serving Love" paradox. This quote, for example, gave the conflict its passive acknowledgment to the quiet sacrifices that one must give daily, whether male or female, in order to achieve meaningful results.
Ann Michael
Yes, fascinating as to subject and content. Phelps in many ways was well ahead of her times. The book is stylistically dated, but not so much as to impede enjoyment of the work (the mantra of "show, don't tell" was not so ingrained during this era.)

Heartbreaking, though, in its way. Even the possible redemption via the gumptious daughter is a bit saddening. But realistic and believable.
I read this for my American Realism class. I thought I was going to die reading it because it was so damn boring.

I like a lot of the messages in the book and what it worked to do and the things it did for literature. I think it is extremely relevant to our times now.

I was just so incredibly bored by it.
"and whatever it would be to me--this life that other women seem to be so--happy in; this feeling that other women--have--to offer the man they--

She broke off abruptly; her voice had fallen into an awestruck whisper."
19th-C awesomeness. I actually dug this story after a rocky start. The investigation of masculinity and femininity in this book is great.
Very detailed, dense, difficult to get through at some points but well worth the read. Phelps is very imaginative with her words.
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500 Great Books B...: The Story of Avis - Elizabeth Stuart Phelps 1 5 Jul 11, 2014 09:27PM  
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, born Mary Gray Phelps, (August 31, 1844-January 28, 1911) was an American author.

She was born at Andover, Massachusetts. In most of her writings she used her mother's name "Elizabeth Stuart Phelps" as a pseudonym, both before and after her marriage in 1888 to Herbert Dickinson Ward, a journalist seventeen years younger. She also used the pseudonym Mary Adams. Her fath...more
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“Success for a woman means absolute surrender, in whatever direction. Whether she paints a picture, or loves a man, there is no division of labor possible in her economy. To the attainment of any end worth living for, a symmetrical sacrifice of her nature is compulsory upon her.” 8 likes
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