Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

IMG_6091 (413x550)source: free review copy via LibraryThing
title: Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own
author: Kate Bolick
published: April 21st 2015 by Crown
genre: memoir/non-fiction
pages: 352
rated: 4 out of 5 stars

“Whom to marry, and when will it happen – these two questions define every woman’s existence.”
So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she – along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing – remains unmarried.

This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless – the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is both an unreservedly inquisitive memoir and a broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities within ourselves to live authentically.

my thoughts:
Where to begin?
I acquired an ARC of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick via LibraryThing back in 2015 and as I have mentioned on my blog recently, I am really trying to get through all my review books this year. So I happily grabbed this one off my shelves and I dove right in. Isn’t the cover pretty?

I have to say straight away that Kate Bolick is a talented writer and that I loved her writing style. She drew me right in, especially as she wrote about her love of being alone and of reading and of books and about her literary heroines. I enjoyed reading about her work as an editor and book reviewer and her New York City life as well.

“I’ve always known that a book will find you when you need to be found; in New York I learned that so did history.”
p.65, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

Bolick uses five authors who inspired her throughout her life. I could relate to her finding herself through her literary heroines. However, the title Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own is a little misleading because the author nor the five women she mentions remained single all of their lives and some were married at one point. She says she considers women to be spinsters if they are single because of divorce or being widowed and not just those who have never wed. The author uses examples throughout history about the struggles women have gone through. About the way some things have changed, yet how some things stay the same.

“The term spinster follows an inverse trajectory. It originated in fifteenth-century Europe as an honorable way to describe the girls, mos of them unmarried, who spun thread for a living-one of the very few respectable professions available to women. By the 1600s the term had expanded to include any unmarried woman, whether or not she spun.”
p.17, Spinster

The five authors that inspired her are Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edith Wharton. I recognized all but Boyce and Brennan and I googled all five ladies to find out a little more. Bolick does a great job at writing about these women and some of the struggles they went through as well as their accomplishments and how they influenced her. She even visited some of the places these women frequented and she spoke to one of Maeve Brennan’s family members.

Bolick really followed her own path in life. It seems like she never let herself get too comfortable and I can respect her for that. She also candidly discusses her mother passing away from cancer and the role her mother played in her life.

“I’d never been alone in my life. As in, truly alone, made to reply solely on myself for a substantial stretch of time. Obviously I was independent; independence was my generation’s birthright. By the time my mother was my age, she was married with a full-time job and two small children and no time to pursue her hope of becoming a writer-in comparison, I was liberty incarnate.”
p. 67

Overall, I enjoyed  Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own very much. I didn’t care that the title mislead a little. It had me up late one night reading even though I had to be up early for work the next morning. I could have read this one in a single sitting if it hadn’t been for daily obligations. And speaking of spinsters, two of my favorite writers never married, Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson.

I found that the message the author was getting across here was that whether you are married or single, divorced or widowed, it doesn’t matter, follow your passion and make your own path in life. If something doesn’t feel right for you, then rethink it and don’t settle. I recommend this one.

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I received my copy of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own via LibraryThing.
Some of the links in the post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission.

13 thoughts on “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

  1. This sounds good. I agree with the message that you point out is embodied in this book. I am 50 and I have a lot of family friends, both men and women who I have known for decades. Marriage is great for some, but it is not great for everyone. Folks can lead happy and meaningful lives while single or married.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was drawn to the title and the idea behind the book…and I’m glad it was clarified that living alone after divorce or widowhood is part of the premise.

    I’ve been married and divorced…but have lived alone only a few years. My years as a single parent don’t count, as your life isn’t really your own until the children are grown. I’ve only been completely on my own for the past eleven years. I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I didn’t know the history of the word “spinster”. So interesting how things come about right? I do want to read this one. I didn’t get married until I was 33 and although that’s not so late it was interesting to see how some of my family/friends would approach me about why was I remaining single! Most of all I do think it’s important for women to learn about themselves and follow the path that makes you happy regardless if you are married or single. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know that either until I read this book, it’s interesting. Yes, it’s best to follow your own path, everyone is different and there shouldn’t be a rush on it. I’m sure that could get annoying, people asking when you’re getting married. I never ask single people that, it’s kind of rude.
      enjoy your week!


  4. I also like the message of this book, although I think that after getting married as young as I did (20) and still being with the same man some almost 39 years later, the notion that I am now going to up sticks and decide to live alone and start a new life for myself, just isn’t going to happen, unless and until one of us is taken from the other by death.

    For the generations following my own, I totally agree with the concept that a woman (or indeed a man) should forge their own path through life and follow it in the way they choose. That doesn’t mean to say that they should abuse their single status or damage someone else’s life along the way, there should always be respect for their fellow human, but neither should someone be frowned upon for deciding to live life alone.

    A nice review and whilst probably not a book for me, I do like the cover art, it is very 1970s looking 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoyed this one. That’s wonderful you are married 39 years! Good for you two. So many don’t make it last sadly. That shows you two put the work and effort and care in.
      And yes, it all depends on the person and respecting themselves and others is a must.


  5. I like the message of the book, but I agree. From the title and description, I would have expected something a little different. I do like the sound of this one after reading your review though and would definitely be interested in reading it. Thank you for your great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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