Spinster (Kate Bolick)

I’m so happy I finally got my hands on this book! My one criticism is that, at times, the pace slowed down just a bit too much. Otherwise, I found this to be a fascinating examination of several interesting literary women and a balm to my happily-single heart.

Title/Year – Spinster: Making a life of one’s own (2015)

Author – Kate Bolick

Page count – 297

Rating – Buy/Borrow/Bypass + Goodreads 4/5 (Really Liked It)

This book is technically a memoir because Bolick weaves in her own relationship experiences as a single woman. But she focuses heavily on the histories of five literary pioneers she holds as role models for her own life – the essayist Maeve Brennan, the columnist Neith Boyce, the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, the novelist Edith Wharton, and the social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

One thing I loved about this book – subtly suggested by the second part of the title – is that Bolick expands on the question, “What does it mean in our current society to be single?” Does it only apply to those who never marry? What if you’re in a not-married-but-still-long-term romantic relationship? What if you were married but are now divorced or widowed? And do the lessons one can learn by being single (whatever that word means) also apply to people who follow more so-called “traditional” paths of marriage and children?

You’ll have to read the book yourself to figure out what those lessons might be 🙂

“The embrace of possibility, and willingness to improvise rather than “nail down” a life, discomfits and disrupts now as much as it did then.” (p. 151)

I think this is why so many people aren’t merely curious but actually seem personally offended about my decision to not participate in the nuclear married-with-children family path. If you can’t neatly categorize people, it becomes much more difficult to control them. And controlling people is absolutely necessary for maintaining “social order.” People tend to like order. They like security. They don’t like messiness and uncertainty.

Which is why many people who know about Maeve Brennan’s “rootless” life seem to think she must have been so terribly lonely and unhappy. But as Bolick points out:

“A life like that couldn’t have been easy, but at least it was interesting.” (p. 55)


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