"The Awakening" (and Other Stories) by Kate Chopin (1895-1899)
"Edna felt depressed rather than soothed after leaving them. The little glimpses of domestic harmony which had been offered her gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life which fitted her, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui. She was moved by a kind of commiseration for Madame Ratignolle - a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she would never have the taste of life's delirium. Edna vaguely wondered what she meant by 'life's delirium,' It had crossed her thought like some unsought, extraneous impression."
Kate Chopin is often viewed as a forerunner of 20th century feminist authors. She lived and wrote during the second half of the 19th century, and she is best remembered for her short novel The Awakening.
In The Awakening, a member of Louisiana's aristocracy develops feelings for a man who is not her husband. These feelings cause her to question the constraints placed upon her by society at large, and as she questions these accepted values she begins to change her way of living.
The other stories in this collection vary in quality, and all fall far short of The Awakening. Desiree's Baby, a story of miscegenation, is probably the most memorable, but it's so short that it feels more like an outline for a story rather than the story itself.
It's worth noting that The Awakening is/was largely autobiographical, and mirrors many of the struggles Chopin encountered in her own life. Chopin herself dealt with both depression (which she probably would have termed "melancholy") and family issues similar to those of Edna, The Awakening's protagonist. To some extent, writing helped alleviate Kate Chopin's depression, and the negative reception that The Awakening initially received was a devastating event in her later years.
All of which makes The Awakening and Chopin's other stories sound VERY heavy, but they're a far cry from Tolstoy. The Awakening is, moreover, one of the more interesting things I've read lately, and I think that through this novel Chopin painted a realistic portrait of what someone like Edna would have gone through.
As for Chopin's short stories, when they're not very good they're at least very short, and when they're good they're even shorter.
"The Unconsoled" by Kazuo Ishiguro (1995)
"A Woman's Place" by Edwina Currie (1996)
"April Fool's Day" by Bryce Courtenay (1993)
"Teacher Man" and "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt (2005 and 1996)