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A Frozen Woman

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,084 ratings  ·  142 reviews
A Frozen Woman charts Ernaux's teenage awakening, and then the parallel progression of her desire to be desirable and her ambition to fulfill herself in her chosen profession - with the inevitable conflict between the two. And then she is thirty years old, a teacher married to an executive, mother of two infant sons. She looks after their nice apartment, raises her childre ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 8th 1996 by Seven Stories Press (first published 1981)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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“How can I ever conceal all the violence and longing I trundle about inside myself? It’s so hard, with a guardian angel at one’s back and God everywhere, and one’s conscience, that big staring eye floating up in a corner of the ceiling, the first lesson in the ethics book.”

I can hardly express just how much this book made me really think even more about the things I’ve been grappling with on a regular basis in the past year or two. I’ve been my own worst enemy as I have ruthlessly explored life
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french-lit
“In a few years I will become a girl emptied of herself, swollen with romantic ideas in a world reduced to other people’s expectations.”- Annie Ernaux, A Frozen Woman

This is the tale of an unnamed female narrator who ends up following the path expected of her by society. Yet, she is ambitious and also wants to become a teacher and find happiness. But society tells her that “one must live one’s femaleness in its entirety to be ‘complete’ and therefore happy.” And that completeness involves both
A Frozen Woman by French author Annie Ernaux, born September 1, 1940, and still living, is autobiographical fiction. Being one of her earlier works, it is not experimental as her later works are. It follows closely the events in the author’s own life focusing upon how it is to be a woman, what one woman shares with another, as a child, as an adolescent and later as an adult, how we relate to each other and to those of the opposite sex. It is about the very essence of being a woman—our early and ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
The fact that this book was published in 1981, documenting Annie Ernaux’s life from her teenage years to life as a young married woman in (I think) the 60s just astounds me because it is still so ANNOYINGLY relevant.
Her upbringing was rather unorthodox, full of women who refused to conform to gender roles, including her own mother, a loud, confident woman who ran the family grocery store while her husband looked after the café side of it as well as the cooking at home. But as Ernaux grew up and
M. Sarki
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rarely does Ernaux repeat herself, and always she has something important to say. Her positions, and stories, may not always be the most popular, but she makes perfect sense to me. She is, in my opinion, one hell of a woman. And a very good writer as well.

After having a couple days to think more about what I read, it is obvious to me that Annie was pretty angry at herself for falling into this man-family-homemaker trap that she never ever truly wanted for herself. But she is not a man hater. She
M. Sarki
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Rarely does Ernaux repeat herself, and always she has something important to say. Her positions, and stories, may not always be the most popular, but she makes perfect sense to me. She is, in my opinion, one hell of a woman. And a very good writer as well.

After having a couple days to think more about what I read, it is obvious to me that Annie was pretty angry at herself for falling into this man-family-homemaker trap that she never ever truly wanted for herself. But she is not a man hater. She
May 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
This was a book club selection and not of my choosing. Our selector this month found it on a list of Motherhood books. Yeah, bad Mothers, maybe.

I had to keep reminding myself that Ernaux was born in 1940 and her tales of marriage are from France in the early 1960s. Oh, and that the book is translated from French so who knows how much nuance was lost?

Despite the reminders, I just couldn't relate to Ernaux at all. Her parents encouraged her to pursue a career but she wanders through school and doe
Nov 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, french, bieb
I dog eared many pages of this short exploration of what it meant to be a woman in the author's life. It was especially interesting to see how many restrictions came from her shifting from a working class family to a middle class marriage, and all the expectations she accepted into her worldview without realizing it at the time. ...more
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm torn between a 3 and 4 rating. For the length and how long it took me to read, I'm rating on the lower end. I'm not sure if it's due a bit to the translation or purely the style but the stream of consciousness way the book is written, with paragraphs going on for at least a page - and sometimes more - throughout the book was difficult for me, especially in the beginning (aware it took me a lot of words to say that too, ha!) But by the end, the whirlwind writing struck a chord with me, and I ...more
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Even in translation, this book is effortlessly personal. Autobiographical writing as fine art, the transitions through time periods in the author’s life are elegant and fluid, yielding a poetic form with emotional force. Highly original approach that works as memoir and personal essay from a brilliant, introspective mind...I am looking forward to reading as much of Ernaux as I can find.
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly poetic and honest. It's written about the author's childhood in the 50s / 60s and her experiences growing into womanhood in the 60s / 70s. Published in 1981, it could have easily been written in 2020! Her stories showcase the individual female experience of internalized patriarchy and the insidious effects of power imbalances. ...more
Ket Lamb
Jan 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
A Frozen Woman is one young French woman's long litany of stream-of-consciousness complaints as she graduates from school into motherhood. This emotionally distant story reads like something that would have been assigned in a 1970's Women's Studies class. Granted, Annie Ernaux deftly captures that period of time, where women are realizing how society pushes them into an unwanted gender defined role and keeps them tied to the home front, but she doesn't offer a satisfying resolution. The protagon ...more
Sara Hubbard
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A Frozen Woman is about a woman growing from childhood into adulthood and her struggle to conform with the traditional roles of a wife and mother, and how hollow she feels trying to stifle herself into fitting in with this convention. I loved this book because I know I am not alone and that living for yourself as well as your family does not make you horrible, just challenged. It does not mean you love your children any less, even it others might make this assumption. I talked about this book in ...more
Mélie Boltz
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ever since I discovered Ernaux about 2 years ago, I've been slowly working my way through her books. This is by far my favorite for the moment, probably because it hit so close to home and to my memories of watching my mother become this woman.

The style is extremely simple and frills-free, mostly internal thoughts and impressions as the character (Ernaux, this is self-fiction) grows and develops. We follow the character progressively come to see womanhood in different lights, watch her see herse
May 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
Okay, so...honestly, all that feminist bullshit was really hard to swallow. Like, I find her kinda hypocrite to say society forced me to do this thing or that thing, while in her book she clearly tells that she did it because she WANTED to. She wanted to be like all the other girls and do all the bullshit they did. If she really wanted to be revolutionary she just had to say no you know like a human being who's able to voice thoughts. It makes me kinda mad cause she was happy in her normalized l ...more
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved her insights on what being a woman meant for her during different periods of her life. Reading the last part where she describes what bourgeois married life has done to her, and more precisely the description of the many telltale signs of what will happen to her was illuminating. I felt almost the same as I felt when I read "Le deuxième sexe" from Simone de Beauvoir for the first time. It was eye-opening and thus, very necessary. I recommend this book to any woman and any man, it will ma ...more
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
I preferred A Frozen Woman over a Simple Passion. Reading about Annie Ernaux, and reading this book is only growing my desire to keep a journal. As one gets older, it seems memories and past life events take on a new meaning, a new importance. I would hate to look back and only have vague feelings, brief moments of clarity. While at times, the writing style or the references left me confused, I just accepted the fact that on this first read, there would be many things I did not understand, and I ...more
Mar 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book felt very true-to-life to me, with women wanting their freedom and career, but also wanting marriage and family. It's a lot to juggle and I have done it myself, often feeling guilty on all sides! It was so interesting to hear it put into words so succinctly by this author. ...more
Nasri Dalel
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book has to be read by all women. It is a reminder of feminist battles.
it's a detailed story, intense emotions.
She began the story as an ambitious young girl and she ended a frozen women.
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful feminist story with, also beautifully, no resolution at the end.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Unflinchingly honest and brutal. Even if you are not claustrophobic, you feel the walls slowly closing in on you.
Danielle W
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is literally my nightmare.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars. Loved her musings on reading.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think every woman needs to read it
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
audiobook on Spotify
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i just found this book really hard to read + enjoy, though i liked parts of it! maybe it’s just bc i can’t focus on anything rn :/
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
So sad. So true. I hope she left that jerk of a husband...
Jul 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an autobiographical story of a woman who ends up married with two kids and feeling very lost and resentful. She begins as a young girl whose unconventional parents encourage, even push, her academically. They don't have her do any chores so she can study. As a tween and adolescent she becomes preoccupied with matters of appearance and attracting boys, but always with a commitment to a career of her own, and "freedom." In the end she almost makes it -- dating and marrying a boy who treats ...more
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book was selected by one of the members of Kabooki, our book club here in Los Angeles. My understanding is that this book is somewhat biographical or memoir-ish in nature. It follows the story of a young woman who recounts her childhood in France and that of her early 20's, finishing college, getting married, having kids and coming to grips or perhaps not coming to grips with all these various roles that women play - teacher, wife, mother, daughter. This was definitely not one of my favorit ...more
Jun 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book combines an attempt at unraveling the deterministic forces that herd women into corralled existences with an an autobiographical account of the authors' life through France in the 60s and 70s. As such, it's an interesting experiment. However, the author's motivations come of as disingenuous and her own feelings and sentiments are glossed over when they seem to embarrass her. As such, it reads like a long laundry list of stuff she does from day to day, without direction. I found it to b ...more
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Annie Ernaux is a French writer.

She won the Prix Renaudot in 1984 for her book La Place, an autobiographical narrative focusing on her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up in a small town in France, and her subsequent process of moving into adulthood and away from her parents' place of origin.

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“Poétise, poétise, fais-toi le grand cinéma de la liberté passée. Vrai que j'aimais ma vie, que je voyais l'avenir sans désespoir. Et je ne m'ennuyais pas. J'en ai réellement prononcé des propos désabusés sur le mariage, le soir dans ma chambre, avec les copines étudiantes, une connerie, la mort, rien qu'à voir la trombine des couples mariés au restau, ils bouffent l'un en face de l'autre sans parler, momifiés. Quand Hélène, licence de philo, concluait que c'était tout de même un mal nécessaire, pour avoir des enfants, je pensais qu'elle avait de drôles d'idées, des arguments saugrenus. Moi je n'imaginais jamais la maternité avec ou sans mariage. Je m'irritais aussi quand presque toutes se vantaient de savoir bien coudre, repasser sans faux plis, heureuses de ne pas être seulement intellectuelles, ma fierté devant une mousse au chocolat réussie avait disparu en même temps que Brigitte, la leur m'horripilait. Oui, je vivais de la même manière qu'un garçon de mon âge, étudiant qui se débrouille avec l'argent de l'État, l'aide modeste des parents, le baby-sitting et les enquêtes, va au cinéma, lit, danse, et bosse pour avoir ses examens, juge le mariage une idée bouffonne.” 4 likes
“Mais les signes de ce qui m'attendait réellement, je les ai tous négligés. Je travaille mon diplôme sur le surréalisme à la bibliothèque de Rouen, je sors, je traverse le square Verdrel, il fait doux, les cygnes du bassin ont reparu, et d'un seul coup j'ai conscience que je suis en train de vivre peut-être mes dernières semaines de fille seule, libre d'aller où je veux, de ne pas manger ce midi, de travailler dans ma chambre sans être dérangée. Je vais perdre définitivement la solitude. Peut-on s'isoler facilement dans un petit meublé, à deux. Et il voudra manger ses deux repas par jour. Toutes sortes d'images me traversent. Une vie pas drôle finalement. Mais je refoule, j'ai honte, ce sont des idées de fille unique, égocentrique, soucieuse de sa petite personne, mal élevée au fond. Un jour, il a du travail, il est fatigué, si on mangeait dans la chambre au lieu d'aller au restau. Six heures du soir cours Victor-Hugo, des femmes se précipitent aux Docks, en face du Montaigne, prennent ci et ça sans hésitation, comme si elles avaient dans la tête toute la programmation du repas de ce soir, de demain peut-être, pour quatre personnes ou plus aux goûts différents. Comment font-elles ? [...] Je n'y arriverai jamais. Je n'en veux pas de cette vie rythmée par les achats, la cuisine. Pourquoi n'est-il pas venu avec moi au supermarché. J'ai fini par acheter des quiches lorraines, du fromage, des poires. Il était en train d'écouter de la musique. Il a tout déballé avec un plaisir de gamin. Les poires étaient blettes au coeur, "tu t'es fait entuber". Je le hais. Je ne me marierai pas. Le lendemain, nous sommes retournés au restau universitaire, j'ai oublié. Toutes les craintes, les pressentiments, je les ai étouffés. Sublimés. D'accord, quand on vivra ensemble, je n'aurai plus autant de liberté, de loisirs, il y aura des courses, de la cuisine, du ménage, un peu. Et alors, tu renâcles petit cheval tu n'es pas courageuse, des tas de filles réussissent à tout "concilier", sourire aux lèvres, n'en font pas un drame comme toi. Au contraire, elles existent vraiment. Je me persuade qu'en me mariant je serai libérée de ce moi qui tourne en rond, se pose des questions, un moi inutile. Que j'atteindrai l'équilibre. L'homme, l'épaule solide, anti-métaphysique, dissipateur d'idées tourmentantes, qu'elle se marie donc ça la calmera, tes boutons même disparaîtront, je ris forcément, obscurément j'y crois. Mariage, "accomplissement", je marche. Quelquefois je songe qu'il est égoïste et qu'il ne s'intéresse guère à ce que je fais, moi je lis ses livres de sociologie, jamais il n'ouvre les miens, Breton ou Aragon. Alors la sagesse des femmes vient à mon secours : "Tous les hommes sont égoïstes." Mais aussi les principes moraux : "Accepter l'autre dans son altérité", tous les langages peuvent se rejoindre quand on veut.” 2 likes
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