Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Spinster" by Kate Bolick

FTC disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. I checked out the audiobook from my library through Overdrive.

Back in July I read & loved Rebecca Traister's "All the Single Ladies." Craving more reflective, feminist non-fiction, I decided it was finally time to get back to "Spinster," a book I had requested from Blogging for Books when it originally came out. I unfortunately got waylaid at the time with school and work and such, and then stupidly left the book in DC when I went back to NYC. Luckily, my hold came in on the audiobook just as I found the print copy, and good reading times were had by all.

Kate Bolick reflects on her own life and her great literary influencers in "Spinster." The novel is mostly memoir with some literary criticism thrown in. She structures her reflections on her life around discussions of the great literary women who have shaped her personal development - Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton. If you're only a little familiar with these ladies, or maybe even haven't heard of them, don't be scared off. Bolick does a great job contextualizing them in both their own time and her own life, quoting from their work, sharing their biographies, and basically making sure readers understand why and how they impacted her.

At the heart of the book, though, is Bolick's gradual decision to reclaim spinsterhood, and revel in being an unmarried woman. Along the way she gives readers an intimately personal look all aspects of her life - personal and professional, and how various encounters and milestones shaped her outlook. Skimming the reviews on Goodreads, it seems the people who were disappointed with this book expected it to be something that it's not. Bolick's book is deeply personal, reflective, with a literary frame. If you're looking for broader cultural discussions, turn to "All the Single Ladies." If you'd like a more introspective examination of one woman's decision on how to live her own life, this is an excellent memoir.

Verdict: Jury's out - Just make sure you know what you're getting into. If you're not interested in learning about historical literary ladies alongside deep introspection, this isn't going to be a book for you. If that sounds like your feminist cup of tea, though, this is an excellent book.

"Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own" by Kate Bolick, published April 21, 2015 by Crown. Audio narration by Kate Bolick, published April 21, 2015 by Random House Audio.

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