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Spinster
A bold, original, moving book that will inspire fanatical devotion and ignite...
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Spinster

Created: 05/09/16

Replies: 21

Posted May. 09, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccak

Join Date: 05/26/12

Posts: 39

What are your overall thoughts on the book?

In a more general way, I'm wondering what people thought overall of Spinster. I have a Master of Arts in Women's & Gender Studies, which is partly why I was interested in this book based on the short description from the publisher. I expected it to be the story of one writer's modern single life. Instead, the writer was coupled for nearly the entire book. Additionally, the story was basically told through five historic female writers. More often than not, I found author Kate Bolick was reaching in an attempt to compare herself to her "awakeners."

At various times throughout the story, I found Bolick whiny, obnoxious, needy, and completely unaware of white privilege in her personal experience. Describing her massive family home as "modest" is just one example of something that drove me nuts. I feel like Bolick somehow spent her entire life within the confines of privilege and academia, and has no idea what the "real world" is like. It also felt like she wrote with a thesaurus next to her. Many times her word choices came across as deliberate snootiness rather than the way a person would describe an experience.

I feel VERY strongly that the marketing for the book was all wrong. The book I read was NOT the book that was described by the publisher. It almost felt like they somehow mixed up and put the description of one book on the text of a different book. The cover and the descriptions led me to believe it would be a writer expressing her experience as a modern single woman, but that's not what the book was about at all. That doesn't match well with the reality that the book is actually a highly researched look into the lives of five female writers with ties to New England.

Ultimately, I didn't hate the book (honestly). I'd give it two out of five stars. I think what frustrated me is the clash between the manner in which the book was marketed and what it really was. Had I known it was a look at five writers, some of whom are rather obscure, I wouldn't have expressed interest in reading it in the first place.


Posted May. 10, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
terrio

Join Date: 08/16/11

Posts: 60

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I found the book dissatisfying as well. It was not at all what I expected. Rather than being a thoughtful book by a single woman about her experiences as a single woman, the book seems to be about a woman who is almost always coupled but who says she longs to be alone. But when she ends a relationship, she enters another one almost immediately and/or spends so much time partying that she never seems to be alone. It became tedious very quickly, as did the contortions she went through to compare her life to the lives of her "awakeners." Actually, I was much more interested in the lives of her "awakeners" than I was in her life.


Posted May. 10, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Windsong

Join Date: 05/07/13

Posts: 70

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I agree with rebeccak and terrio on many points. As I read the book and when I was finished, I could not grasp the publisher's enthusiasm for it nor Bolick's purpose for writing it. First the disjointed style of telling the stories of her awakeners made it difficult to follow. For example, Maeve Brennan was introduced on Page 64 as a "writer who served a psychological purpose for [Bolick]." The next chapter is about Neith Boyce followed by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and finally Maeve returns on Page 164. Although the lives of the women were interesting, I thought if I were still teaching my gifted and talented or my AP English students, I would have had to ask what is this writer's thesis? I also thought of studying for the Miller's Analogy test and thought Bolick's analogies to her awakener's lives and her personal lives are weak.
Regarding her word choices: I agree with rebeccak. When I wrote my review of it on Goodreads, I wrote that for me writer who has to explain the use of her terms has missed the point. I think she realized it when she wrote, "I grant that a wholesale reclamation of the word spinster is a tall order."
terrio used "tedious" as an overall feeling matched mine perfectly. The awakeners lives were much more interesting than Kate Block's affairs and her self indulgent book.
I gave it a 2 out of 5 on Goodreads.


Posted May. 10, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccak

Join Date: 05/26/12

Posts: 39

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I'm so relieved to see I'm not the only one who felt this way! As of May 10, 2016, the book's overall rating on Goodreads is 3.43 stars (out of 5). In my opinion, that's a very generous rating.

I'm absolutely convinced the individuals who wrote the description of the book and worked on the marketing never read it.


Posted May. 10, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 212

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I have to agree with all that has been said. I had difficulty following the purpose or meaning of this book. Some of the time I felt like I was trying to make my way through a Sociology text, some of the time I was in a Women Writers class, then I was watching another episode of Sex in the City. And why was Brolick so invested in redefining the term "spinster" ? She was no where even close. I hate to ask, but what was the purpose of the paper dolls. To be honest I would give this book a 1 or 1!/2.


Posted May. 10, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccak

Join Date: 05/26/12

Posts: 39

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

Considering the paper doll "reading guide" delayed the mailing of the books for about a month, I think it may have been a last-ditch effort to make the book more fun and lighthearted than it really is. (That's a guess... it was definitely an odd thing to include.)


Posted May. 11, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janp

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 31

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I have not yet finished the book but am definitely in the mindset of all you others. I am simpatico with all you have said. And good point Reene: "Why was Bolick so invested in redefining the term 'spinster'." She was way off the mark on that one. Will comment again when I am done.


Posted May. 11, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
andreab

Join Date: 07/29/14

Posts: 71

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

Wow - I am glad I was not the only one in expecting more from this book. The "awakeners" were interesting but the premise of the book was not as described.


Posted May. 12, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 86

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I was expecting more of an historical approach to the role of women, spinsters, and how these expectations have evolved. Less memoir and broader history is what I expected.


Posted May. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccak

Join Date: 05/26/12

Posts: 39

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I change my review to 1 star. It took me more than a week to finish the last 75 pages of "Spinster" because I wanted to do literally ANYTHING ELSE than read this book. How is the subtitle "Making a Life of One's Own" when all Bolick does throughout the entire book is obsessively attempt to compare her life to those of five historic female writers (and, of course, her deceased mother)?

I don't mean to to be rude, but I thought it was awful. I'm extremely disappointed because I wanted to like it so much; it's what I studied in graduate school; I myself have never been married; but I could not relate to any feeling or emotion she described and I found the entire thing unbelievably self-absorbed, insecure, and dull.


Posted May. 14, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
smsh

Join Date: 05/03/16

Posts: 12

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I agree with everyone who expressed disappointment in the book. I, too, really wanted to like it, but it became a chore to read. I felt like I was reading a self-centered journal. I could not establish trust with the author, so found I could not even believe I was getting completely valid information about the women she wrote about.


Posted May. 14, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elizabethh

Join Date: 06/25/11

Posts: 14

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I agree with many of the previous comments. I found the book difficult to slog through and ended up assigning myself a certain number of pages to read everyday in order to finish it. Some of the information about The Awakeners was interesting, they were women who were ahead of the times and whom I knew little to nothing about, but I'm not quite sure how that related to the author. At times I felt that the author was trying to justify her inability to commit.


Posted May. 14, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susan m

Join Date: 10/10/12

Posts: 4

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I still am trying to finish this book and I feel it's not worth the effort to do so as there are so many others in my book stacked at the side of my bed. The lives of the women she wrote about were very interesting most I've not heard of or read.


Posted May. 15, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janp

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 31

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I posted several days ago adding that I had not yet finished the book. It was very difficult to finish this book. Almost to the the end, she writes: "I trust by now that you're wise to my reversals of opinion". Bolick had an aha moment that caused her to revise the thoughts she had when she started writing the book. I just grew very tired of her. And was it really necessary to count the number of single females Edith wrote about (page 231) between 1900 - 1913?
Living life is a struggle, regardless of one's gender or identity or status (single, married, divorced, widowed, etc). For Bolick to think that I would be interested in her push/pull for over 20 years astonishes me. I certainly won't be reading her again.


Posted May. 15, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pamelah

Join Date: 05/19/11

Posts: 19

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

Bolick is a "spinster" in the media sense. She has spun a web of relationships that won't capture her audience.
Indeed they hang together by a thread, and create a thinly woven connection to the author's meme.


Posted May. 16, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbm

Join Date: 02/04/16

Posts: 73

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

Disappointment! I was excited to start the book, thinking it would 'take me away' to an idyllic world of singledom; instead it was a rather pathetic attempt to justify jumping from relationship to relationship ( calling herself a spinster) by a person who is yet to know her true self. I wonder if the 'awakeners' were born of an editor's quest to add some literary value to the book... and the paper dolls, don't get me started on them! How silly to make these talented women nothing more than paper dolls. Isn't that the opposite of her premise? The saving grace is that it caused me to remember my personal awakeners, and once again be grateful. For that alone, it was worth the read!


Posted May. 17, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Windsong

Join Date: 05/07/13

Posts: 70

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

pamelah - great comment "Bolick is a "spinster" in the media sense.


Posted May. 17, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
alisonf

Join Date: 01/31/13

Posts: 82

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RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I wanted to like this book and I think the idea made sense when pitched but it just didn't translate or inspire. It did make me revisit the inspirational women of history so for that I am thankful but I had hoped for more.


Posted May. 18, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elizabetht

Join Date: 03/15/16

Posts: 1

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

Wow! I'm glad I'm not alone! I think Kate Bolick is a good, sometimes great, wordsmith, and sometimes, in a phrase, sentence, or paragraph, she nails an experience of singlehood which I really resonated with -- but I'm 73 and have been a "spinster" my whole life. I don't consider many of the women she profiled "spinsters," because they finally did marry, or in the case of Edith Wharton, married first, then made a life on her own. I somehow felt this book was a thinly veiled excuse for the author to tell her own story instead of discussing spinsterhood, tyng in these other women to make it seem an exploration of a topic rather than a self-indulgent exercise. Also, I was more interested in some of these women than others, so the book felt uneven to me. I read some, got bored, put it down, then picked it up again, read on and became interested. She did touch on themes that all us never-married women think about, such as why is everyone else married except me? But as I've grown older, I have seen the outcome of many long-term marriages, successful and not, and I have no regrets AT ALL.


Posted May. 21, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
suzanner

Join Date: 04/26/15

Posts: 27

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

Book is very unsatisfying. I could only think of how sorry I feel for an author who has invested the irredeemable precious commodity of time in her life researching and writing about other successful women who took up strong positions (but ones she'll never share) to validate her trenchant desire not to form emotional attachments. Her unresolved fears riddle this book. Ranging from the relationship with her mother to the sounds of the broader culture wars that Bolick absorbed as a young girl to the early illness and untimely loss of her mother to lacking a spiritual intelligence and a remarkably underwhelming career beyond college, I wonder how this book even breathes because is it a diary as much as a personal memorandum. What is its broader appeal to a reading audience? I agree that throwing in cocktail recipes and paper doll cut outs is a gambit to elicit attention but it is short-lived. There is no content here, only screed. It would have been much more interesting to read of the literary history of women who shaped American letters.


Posted May. 29, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cb

Join Date: 03/19/14

Posts: 26

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

Slow. Not what I was expecting. Post completion, I consider SPINSTER an interesting read, but not one aId recommend. It will shortly reside at my local Goodwill.


Posted May. 29, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cb

Join Date: 03/19/14

Posts: 26

RE: What are your overall thoughts on the book?

I apologize to mbrs of this discussion for my late participation. I found it difficult to find the motivation to read in a timely fashion, to not contact BookBrowse with a plea to excuse me, to want to give my time to contemplating this book.
I stepped away, enjoyed a trip to Norway, then have tried to honor this commitment.
Thank goodness the next three books I read have revived me :)


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