I was really intrigued by the subject of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick. The book opens with, “Whom to marry, and when it will happen- these two questions define every woman’s existence, regardless of where she was raised or what religion she does or doesn’t practice.” I am not considered a spinster and I don’t aspire to be one, but I think every woman can relate to feeling like a marriage, or a lack of one, is a defining point in their lives. Spinster is part memoir, part history lesson. Bolick writes of her “spinster life” and the five women writers that have inspired her along the way. She tells of her experience as a single woman and compares it to the experiences her “awakeners” (Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton) had from the late 1800s on.
Spinster has a lot of potential, but it never quite worked for me. First of all, none of Bolick’s awakeners were truly spinsters. Yes, they spent quite a few years of their lives as single women but they were all married at least once. Bolick herself doesn’t seem like much of a spinster. She has never been married but it seemed like she was constantly in a relationship, and several of them were long-term. I felt like this was less a book about spinsters and women who choose to live the single life and more about people Bolick admires. She seems to appreciate these women because they had successful careers and weren’t dependent on men, not because they were single. Furthermore, Bolick never seems to learn anything or grow as a person as the memoir progresses. The parts about her life basically consist of either:
“I was in a great relationship but I didn’t want to get married so we broke up. I was in a not-so-great relationship but I loved it because I was free. Then we broke up. I found a wonderful man but the only natural progression of our relationship was to get married. So we broke up.”
“I was a freelance writer and was completely broke and miserable but it was great because I wasn’t married. Then I got a job at a ‘fluffy women’s magazine’ and discovered I actually loved it and made a lot of money. Then I went back to freelance work and was broke. I couldn’t pay my bills but I wasn’t married so I was happy.”
I liked reading about the lives of Bolick’s five awakeners but when it comes to giving insight into the lives of spinsters and how things have changed over the years, this book falls flat. Bolick seems to think that being a spinster is the only way to feel independent and self-reliant and vice-versa, but she only touches the surface of cultural expectations and why she feels that is the case. Spinster by Kate Bolick had a lot of potential to be great but it didn’t work for me.
2 out of 5.
I received a copy of Spinster by Kate Bolick from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.