A book with the title Spinster immediately evokes images of bag ladies, cat ladies, and posh, man-hating ladies with better things to do than marry someone of the opposite sex. At first Kate Bolick’s Spinster, an autobiographical look into the author’s own life as well as that of five prominent female writers who impacted Bolick, seemed to be a book filled with such characters of the above described demeanor and mindset. This wasn’t quite the case though.
Within the first page, Bolick claims that ideas and questions of marriage “define every woman’s existence.” I have to admit that I was a little put off about the direction Spinster seemed to be taking off in. Sure, I understand that the idea of and questions surrounding marriage effect a large population of women; however, I wholly disagree that these ideas or questions define every woman. It seemed that Bolick was taking it upon herself to determine universal truths for women regarding men, relationships, and marriage. This was aggravating to me as a woman who does not personally align with these thoughts and ideas.
Nonetheless, the book proved unavoidably engaging. Bolick’s interweaving of the lives of Maeve Brennan, Neith Boyce, Edna Millay, Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman with her own made the narrative read more like a novel, creating a cadence that sped the book along at an almost non-stop pace. Not only does Bolick draw on historical experiences from her own life and those of her “influencers,” but she also examines situations from psychological and sociological viewpoints compelling the reader to use these same lenses to examine similar situations in her own life.
Bolick also discusses the hatred of time that single people experience. “You hate it, rail against it, do whatever you can to get rid of it-” This is again an assumption that can’t be made universal. As someone who has been single nearly all of my life and who loves my alone time both when single and even now when I am not single, I can confidentially say that I’ve never wished away time out of loneliness or any other reason for that matter. To me, the issues mentioned above seem more seated in a lack of fundamental contentment with the self rather than with being single.
As the narrative progressed, I began to see that Spinster is not necessarily about being single or about men at all. Rather, the central idea of the book focuses on self-awareness and self-confidence. Bolick admits that in her past, her own self-perception was often informed and molded by the men whom she shared her life with, and thus her adventure into spinsterhood began a much needed journey of self-discovery. In the end, Bolick advocates for self-fulfillment through independence, and not necessarily physical independence from a significant other, but rather independence for yourself before you even engage with that other.
Spinster isn’t about men, or a man, or a woman’s relationship to a man, it is about a woman’s relationship with, and discovery of, herself. And in that, it is a fantastic and introspective work.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.