Book Review: Spinster by Kate Bolick

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Zvi saw my new book sitting on the counter and asked why I was reading a book called Spinster in the midst of wedding planning? 

A perfectly valid question. I had heard of the book while we were still dating, but never got around to reading it until after we were engaged. For some reason, at the height of wedding planning I finally decided to give it a go. 

Prior to meeting my husband-to-be, I was actively seeking out books, articles, and discussions about interesting, educated, and dynamic women who happened to still be single. As I moved into my late twenties and early thirties, I began to worry about my future plans of marriage and family and I wanted to find some companionship, at least on the page. Most of my friends were married and starting families, and it was very isolating. 

As someone who works in a church, I know that single life can be especially lonely in that context. In the midst of my confusion and worry about my single status, I committed to myself to remember those feelings of isolation and loneliness if I eventually found myself checking off the married box. 

And so, when I came across Spinster in the whirlwind of wedding planning, I knew it was something I still wanted to read. My interested in the topic hadn’t changed along with my relationship status. Bolick isn’t advocating for singleness as the only or right way to live, but is taking an historical look at the statue of single women in this country, while she explores her one feelings and experiences with the subject. 

Bolick’s books is almost equal parts memoir, sociological study, and history. I enjoyed her skilled weaving of her own story in with the stories of her “awakeners”. Bolick identified a handful of women who had written on the subject of singleness extensively and had lived a significant portion (if not all) of their lives without a spouse. And as these women were living fifty to a hundred years ago, their single lifestyle was truly trailblazing. Bolick explores the social and economic factors that began to make independent singleness a viable option for some women in the early 20th century. Previous generations of women had the option of remaining unmarried, but would then usually find themselves under the “protection” of their father or brother. 

An increase in jobs available to women, boarding houses to live in and other factors allowed many women to have the option for independence for the first time. 

As I navigate what married life will look like for me and my spouse, I appreciate having Bolick’s historical and personal perspective in my toolbox. Her book was an enjoyable and relatively quick read, but also had a depth that kept me thinking long after I finished the final chapter. 

Reading is one of the primary ways I learn about myself and others, so I would recommend Spinster to any woman (or man) regardless of her marital status. It is always helpful to understand where we have come from in order to prepare for where we may be headed. 

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review, but the opinion is solely mine. 

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