Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own

In the opening pages of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, Bolick introduces her five "awakeners," women of the written word who have offered her lessons about how to live as a woman, married or not: Maeve Brennan (1917-1993), essayist at the New Yorker; Neith Boyce (1872-1951), columnist at Vogue; Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), poet and legendary lover; Edith Wharton (1862-1937), novelist and grand dame; and Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935), social visionary and prolific writer.

As Bolick discovers each of her five awakeners (a term borrowed from Wharton) and the lessons she finds with them, she changes jobs, moves from city to city, and dates and lives with various men. She started using the word "spinster" in her journals in her early 20s, and always considered it a positive appellation, one posing possibility. Spinster's tone is charming, by turns confessional, collegial and academic. Bolick's erudition is leavened by a playful, casual tone, even as she makes references to Shakespeare and the Lernaean hydra in a single page.

Besides telling the author's story, Spinster delves into the lives of the five profiled writers, as well as into history and sexual politics. As the narrator of this voyage, Bolick is amiable, credible and fun to know. Her book is the result of meditations, ruminations, angst and joy; of research, reading and appreciation of five intriguing lives; of dating, moving in with someone and time spent alone. While allowing that the coupled lifestyle is fine for some, Bolick's message for readers is a celebration of the delights, challenges and opportunities of remaining single. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Powered by: Xtenit