Spinster--Not Really About Spinsters

Bridges DelPonte

2.5 Stars

July 21, 2015

Spinster, Making a Life of One’s Own – Kate Bolick 

I loved the opening line of this book about the two common questions often looming over women’s heads about whom to marry and when.  As a Catholic kid who grew up in the 60s and 70s, it was assumed that women were supposed to get married and have kids--first and foremost.  I didn’t follow the typical path, but went to law school, and then did not marry for the first time until age 32….ancient by the standards of that time.  So I was intrigued by the premise of this book. 

I think that it doesn’t fully deliver on its promise…in part, because I don’t agree with how she has defined spinster.  Much of the book is spent discussing five female writers that serve as her role models or “awakeners” to the importance of a woman defining her own life.  Many of the female writers that she indicates are her role models were  married at some point in time—so they weren’t spinsters.  They often came from money or married money that allowed them to have an independent life when their marriages ended—a pretty retro idea of feminism in my book.  The one female writer who truly goes it alone ends up as a broken, mentally unstable woman…not exactly the best model of independent singlehood.  I also think she is attributing motives and virtues to her role models that are really of her own making. 

I know lots of single women in my life who are great and haven’t had a date in years. They don’t view themselves as spinsters and live very full lives. So at times, it was annoying to hear the author complain about the supposed trials and tribulations of the writer’s life  with its whirlwind of  never-ending social engagements and dates in NYC or traipsing around Italy finding personal meaning in her life—luxuries few women can afford or will ever have the opportunity to experience. So at times, this book can be a bit heavy with the author’s self-pity about being misunderstood, an unfortunate plain Jane (which she isn’t) and  her penchant for throwing away some seemingly good relationships. 

I think the book was strongest when she talked about her own personal struggles, her mother’s illness and passing, and efforts to be alone to do her writing. She clearly prefers solitude which is not the same thing as being single.  One can carve out solitude, whether married or single.  A better name for the book would have been “Loner: Why I Prefer Solitude.” 

[Please note that I got this book for free to review as part of the "Blogging for Books" program.]