Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own
by Kate Bolick



Crown Publishers, 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-34714-3.
Reviewed by Pat Bean
Posted on 07/12/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir

I grew up in the 1940s and '50s when marriage and children were seen as the only proper path for females. If a girl was as yet unmarried while edging toward 40—and yes she was still called a girl—she was pretty much considered a spinster. It was not a compliment; people assumed she was too ugly, too cold or too weird to catch a husband.

But there were some women, even before my time, who gloried in their so-called spinsterhood. Kate Bolick identifies with these women and explores their lives in her book, Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own. The author's admired spinsters, born between 1860 and 1917 and all writers like herself, include poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay, essayist and short-story writer Maeve Brenan, novelist, playwright and poet Neith Boyce, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Edith Wharton, and prominent feminist, poet and novelist Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Unlike society's conception of a spinster as a dried-up virginal specimen, Bolick's role models led full lives, just having lovers instead of husbands. She calls these women, who lived before their time, her awakeners. As she nears her 40th birthday, however, she concludes that she needs to progress into the next decade on her own.

Spinster, Bolick's memoir, is a self-examination of how the author has tackled this task. It is a book full of many questions, with many answers. She realizes that singleness and living a life alone is not for everyone, perhaps even not for her. Her doubts are double-edged in that they are polarized with pros and cons for both togetherness and aloneness.

As one who has chosen to live alone for the past 35 years, I found myself reliving many of my own thoughts in the book's conundrums. At times I felt like I was sitting up late at night, a half-finished bottle of wine sitting on the coffee table, discussing life's choices with Bolick. At one point, we laughed over Socrates' belief that an unexamined life is not worth living. If that were true, then both of us led lives that were well-lived. And then at some point, we came to the conclusion that choosing to live a single life does not mean being lonely.

The thing I take away from Bolick's book is that being a spinster is neither good nor bad, but that choosing singleness does not make us misfits. It is less important what lifestyle we choose than that we choose it consciously and not by default. As Bolick writes, "Each of us is a museum that opens for business the moment we're born, with memory the sole curator." Spinster is a book for women who care about the contents of their personal museum.

Read an excerpt from this book.


Spinster is Kate Bolick's first book. She is a contributing editor for The Atlantic and host of "Touchstones at The Mount," an annual literary interview series at Edith Wharton's country estate in Massachusetts. Her work appears in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Previously, she was executive editor of Domino, and a columnist for The Boston Globe Ideas Section. Visit her website.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.

StoryCircleBookReviews.org has received a copy of this book for review from the author, publisher, or publicist. We have received no other compensation.

       
   
StoryCircleBookReviews provides a review venue for women author-publishers and for women's work published by independent and university presses.


Email me with news about your book reviews



Sarton Women's Book Award


Your ad could be here.
Advertise with us!


   

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.





Buy books online through amazon.com by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book
#visitors: