history / memoir / nonfiction

Spinster : making a life of one’s own by Kate Bolick


Another book I had mixed feelings about. It was a mashup of a memoir of a woman who never married and the profiles of 5 (6?) “spinsters” throughout history that Kate Bolick found inspiring. Looking at GoodReads, it seems like a lot of people liked the historical woman part and didn’t love the memoir bits. For me, it was the reverse. People always seem to be accusing memoirist of being “self-absorbed”. I find this odd because of course, they are self-absorbed, they are writing a memoir about themselves! These are people to think what they have to say and their life is so interesting they should be paid for telling it and have it bound into a book. That’s fine with me. I’m nosy and like reading about randos’ lives.

To me, the history parts were a little distracting when what I really wanted was the dirt on her life. I will admit her story wasn’t too shocking or interesting (basically she moves around a bit and dates a few men in a long term way without getting married) but she is a good writer so it was very readable. I wasn’t that interested in most of the historical woman she profiled and some times their stories seemed a bit forced into the narrative. I would have rathered two books: one about her and her spinsterdom and one that was just about historical single women. Sort of like how that French memoir should have been two books: a memoir and a book on language. Stop trying to be all things, people!

This is another book, like the childfree book, where the author seems to be looking for ways to justify her spinster status while at the same time saying that it is totally fine, normal and no big deal. Obviously, it is a big deal to her. She also does talk quite a bit about how demand she is as a date/partner which again comes across as a little frantic “look at me! I could totally be partnered but I don’t want to!” and is a little tiresome. I think she could have weeded out some potential suitors from the manuscript. Also, I felt like she missed an opportunity to talk about living alone in old age when she relays the story of the elderly man who lay dead in the apartment below her for days before the smell alerted anyone that something was amiss. Surely he was single (or at the very least, alone) and well, no one missed him. It seemed like such an obvious segue, I don’t  know why she turned it in a cocktail party gambit instead.  The book also ends with her having a 7-years younger, very tall and handsome boyfriend who lives 40 minutes away. Good for her but again, this seemed like another “look at me, I’m great” moment.

I’m not sorry I read it but I am very glad I got it out from the library for free.

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