Spinster by Kate Bolick

SpinsterTitle: Spinster

Author: Kate Bolick

Genre: Nonfiction

Publisher: Crown

Pages: 308

Rating: 4/5

“Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.”

So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.

This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless—the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is both an unreservedly inquisitive memoir and a broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities within ourselves to live authentically. Bolick offers us a way back into our own lives—a chance to see those splendid years when we were young and unencumbered, or middle-aged and finally left to our own devices, for what they really are: unbounded and our own to savor.

I’m pretty sure that I first heard about this book in one of my Entertainment Weeklys, but it was after I saw such a glowing review from Renae at Respiring Thoughts that I knew I had to check this book out. I haven’t decided that I’m going to be a genuine Spinster (I just love kids too much – no matter what, I’d like to be a mother someday), but this book definitely inspires me to be myself, regardless of what society tells women they need to do.

The Subject

As you can tell from the title, this book is about spinsters – mainly, a woman making the difficult decision to probably never get married. She’s not asexual, and she has plenty of long-term, serious relationships over her life – she’s even in a good relationship at the end, when she catches up her story to her current point – but she also has this spinster wish. Bolick is a very social person, but she also loves her solitude, and she likes looking to five women (her awakenings, as she calls them) for inspiration, even though four or even all of them were married at least once. This book looks at all the pressure that women feel to get married and all the sexism that goes with that, and we get interesting looks into the five women who inspire Bolick.

The Details

There are two main things in this book: brief biographies and analyses of the five women, and an autobiography and analysis of Bolick’s own life. There are plenty of details – sometimes, there are a few too many names and it can get a little difficult to keep track, but overall, it was quite engaging.

The Sources

Even though much of this book was a memoir, there were plenty of sources, both fascinating sources about the Awakenings as well as general statistics, from divorce rates to censuses that include large number of single people. I found them all quite impressive, but I tend to be impressed easily, so… *shrug*

The Writing

Even though this book was fairly slim, it took me a while to read – yet I enjoyed it the whole time. Yes, a twenty or so page chapter could take a fair chunk of my day to read, but I found myself relating to and being inspired by Bolick and her own muses. I think that was very much a testament to the writing and Bolick’s personality – even when I was shaking my head and saying “wow, that’s not what I want at all,” I was pulled in. And, even though I don’t think I would want to truly be on my own, I found myself relating to the spinster wish anyway, and wishing that more women – and men – felt the freedom to just be alone if that was what they wanted.

In Conclusion…

Despite my aversion to nonfiction, my second attempt at reading a nonfiction book was just as interesting as the first. If Bolick writes another book, I’ll definitely check it out if the topic interests me even half as much as this one did. Whether you’re single, married, dating, or something else, whether you’re a female or male or something else, you should definitely give this book a try if you’re in the mood for a memoir or a nonfiction book.




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