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A review of Kate Bolick’s “Spinster”

Book cover of Spinster.

I’m married. Yet after reading Kate Bolick’s book I proudly call myself ‘Spinster’ in all its glory. Glory might seem like a strong word for a term that is often associated with old wrinkly women and hundreds of cats, but being a spinster is so much more.

A very dear friend of mine sent me this book as a Christmas present. It is a book that came to me at the right time. And by the right time I mean, there must have been some sort of cosmic intervention because I was fist-pumping and aggressively head-nodding my way into 2016. New Year’s Eve is always a time of reflection and often it causes a lot of stress. New years are hard as you try to weigh up the good and bad from last year whilst often punishing yourself in advance for all the things you won’t achieve in the new year to come. But if you’re not sure what to be, then be a spinster.

The author Kate and I have a lot in common. She lost her mother in her early 20s and I lost my father in my early 20s too. She talks about her lost relationship with her mother in a way that is both heartbreaking and hopeful. The author was a struggling writer/editor for many years until she really achieved any success. I, however, am in still in the struggle stages of becoming a writer. Lastly, Kate and I are fearful of being who we truly want to be. While I think Kate’s ideas of herself are a bit different to mine, the fear is still the same.

This book is so many things: self discovery, travel writing, literary review, feminist prose, and personal essay. The book is structured based on the different women who have influenced Kate’s life in one way or another, starting with her mother Nancy O’Keefe Bolick. The others ‘awakeners’, as Kate calls them, are: Maeve Brennan, Neith Boyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Each chapter looks at the writings, struggles, hopes, failures, and successes of each female author all through the lens of ‘spinster’. And with all this talk and encouragement of being a spinster I suppose it is important to say what it actually is… Well, after reading Bolick’s book a spinster to me is a strong woman, who regardless of her marital status loves herself, and her own company. A spinster, despite the struggles of life tackles her fears and worries head on with a tenacity like no other.

Are you going to be a spinster? Who is your awakener? And what inspires you to hold onto your dreams? As always, remember to share the reading love.

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