7.20.2016

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











TITLE / Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own

AUTHOR / Kate Bolick

PUBLISHER / Broadway Books

DATE OF PUBLICATION / April 19, 2016 (originally published in 2015)

NO. OF PAGES / 352

STARRED RATING / ★★★


When I first pulled the paperback out of the padded yellow envelope that found its way to my doorstep, my mom took one look at the title and let out a little laugh. "Better not read that one in public."

What neither of us realized at the time was that, in this immediate reaction, my mom actually proved Kate Bolick's point.

Spinster is an interesting mashup, part memoir and part sprawling cultural examination of what it means to be a single woman in American society. Bolick traces the evolution of the word "spinster," starting at its most traditional definition (an older, unmarried woman) and continuing through imore modern dating trends. By the end of the book the word is reclaimed and re-presented, not as a woman shunned by society, but as a positive: a growing sisterhood of women who actively interested in a less traditional, more solitary lifestyle.

Bolick structures the book around her own life's chronology, from her time as a young teenager indifferent to her mother's generation to a 20 and then 30-something struggling to find her way through the revered New York publishing scene. To supplement and explain her own experiences, Bolick guides her readers through the lives of five women she considers her "awakeners": columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary and writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. These are the women who first sparked Bolick's fascination with "spinsterhood" and to whose writing she turned when trying to figure out her own path in life.

I can only hope that one day Bolick decides to write a full biography of one of these extraordinary women because the life story she spins for each of her awakeners is dynamic and intriguing. Better yet, the select excerpts of their work interspersed throughout the book are meticulously chosen and illustrate Bolick's observations beautifully.

Of course, Bolick herself is also a master with words. Just over ten pages into the book, I was struck by the intense imagery of her prose:

"Each of us is a museum that opens for business the moment we're born, with memory the sole curator. ...And so the curator toils alongside us in the dark, bereft of the information needed to truly understand who we are; the individual is inseparable from context."

Yes, Bolick's subject is fascinating and yes, the way she weaves her own life in with those of her "awakeners" is seamless. But it was the honesty in her written voice and the obvious passion for her subject that kept me turning pages again and again.

Every once and a while, you come across a book that speaks to something in your soul, sparks an interest you didn't know you had, and pulls you in completely. That is what Spinster did for me and I know I do not have enough skill with my own words to describe the masterpiece that Kate Bolick has created. Yes, this can definitely be criticized as a very limited, white, and privileged perspective on what it means to be a single woman. But as one woman's personal journey to understanding that her life can be whatever it is that she wants, Spinster is a skillfully crafted and utterly engrossing success.


About Spinster | About Kate Bolick

Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid to review or feature this book and this review is my 100% honest opinion. This is not a sponsored post.

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