Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spinster by Kate Bolick


The premise of this book is fascinating and, perhaps, long overdue. In this book, Kate Bolick poses the theory that being single and alone, particularly as a woman, is preferable to being married. This book is, in part, a memoir in which Bolick explores her journey to feel comfortable as a single woman of a certain age while at the same time providing small histories of the women that have impacted her life: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Maeve Brennan among them.

I would classify this book as being more closely related to Eat, Pray, Love or Wild, in which Bolick attempts to decide HOW she wants to live and seems to defend her singledom. I did enjoy learning about Ms. Bolick's "awakeners" - the women that she says influenced her the most.  However, the parts of the book that I found more and most fascinating were the parts that were memoir based where Bolick was describing her life and memory and her own personal struggles.  Her voice is unique and grabs you.  Ms. Bolick was also really good at describing the seeming double life of young people - the life that we seem to live in public, going out and working, talking or falling in love and the private one - making plans and to do lists and dreaming. What doesn't seem to hold up is that the women that Bolick said motivated her weren't true spinsters in the traditional meaning of the word - at some point in their lives they WERE married. SOme of them were happily married. I think that the message that Bolick was trying to convey was that these women lived lives on their own terms regardless of the social rules that were placed upon them and that was why they were so influential upon her.

My other critiques are more grand and general. Bolick obviously knows that women at some point, if they are authors, are almost required to write about their dating life.  WHy do WOMEN have to do this and the same pressure does not exist for MEN?  Knowing this, why did she give in to the social stricture that was placed on HER? She spends a TON of time talking about the appearances of the women that were influential even though all of them were REALLY educated and successful in their own rights. How is their appearance important?  Are we REALLY still putting more emphasis on looks than on accomplishment when it comes to women?  This book held lots of promise and I generally liked reading the history of the amazing women that influenced her - there aren't enough of those - and Bolick shows promise as far as her voice. But this book didn't go as far as I wanted it to. I think that the next one that Bolick writes will hopefully hit the nail on the head.

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