BookBrowse Reviews How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

How to Create the Perfect Wife

Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate

by Wendy Moore

How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore X
How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2013, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


An extraordinary true story is at the heart of How to Create the Perfect Wife, prize-winning historian Wendy Moore's captivating tale of one man's mission to groom his ideal mate.

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. That's certainly the case with the story Wendy Moore tells in How to Create a Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Quest to Train the Ideal Mate. Moore combines engaging storytelling with exhaustive and impressive research as she brings to life the misadventures of the eighteenth-century gentleman Thomas Day.

Thomas DayDay, who was born in 1748 in London, was in many ways both a product of and a reaction to the prevailing forces of his day. Although he certainly took to heart (almost to a fault, as we'll see) the social and philosophical questions prevalent and popular at the time, he was also resistant to many of the eighteenth century's highly codified norms of appearance and behavior. One of his friends, Richard Edgeworth, remarked that "Mr. Day's exterior was not at that time prepossessing, he seldom combed his raven locks, though he was remarkably fond of washing in the stream." Moore, drawing largely on accounts of Day by his contemporaries, shows readers a man who eschewed conventional standards of appearance and who was socially awkward to the point of rudeness, particularly in the company of women.

Day's impression of what women should (and shouldn't) be and do was largely cobbled together from the philosophers and poets of the time, as well as his own family history (he never quite forgave his mother for remarrying after his father's death). He had a vision of a woman who would accompany him in his "unremitting practice of the severest virtue," who would be intelligent and educated but uninfluenced by the fashions for which Day himself showed so much disdain; she'd be eager to join him in a life of the mind, enjoying few comforts and even fewer friends.

After a couple of spectacular failures at wooing a wife among his peer group, however, Day, still only in his early twenties, embarked on a new kind of experiment, inspired in large part by the works of Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. If he couldn't find an ideal mate, Day reasoned, he would create one, bringing up a girl from a very young age with the sole aim of making her into his perfect wife. So Day, whose personal fortune combined with the overcrowded conditions at many of the country's foundling homes served to grease the wheels, visited an orphanage. Under the auspices of finding a young housekeeper for a married friend, Day chose a twelve-year-old girl named Ann Kingston, whom he quickly renamed Sabrina. Hedging his bets, Day also returned to the orphanage not long afterwards, finding another young girl (this one a vivacious blonde instead of a quiet brunette) whom he renamed Lucretia from her original name, Dorcas.

Following the best of Enlightenment philosophies regarding education, as well as his own idiosyncratic desires for a supremely educated but utterly subservient helpmeet, Day strove to mold these young women into something resembling his ideal. Of course, he would eventually have to choose one or the other - and his method of doing so is just the beginning of this provocative and almost unbelievable history.

Moore's previous book, Wedlock, explores the bizarre-but-true story of a disastrous eighteenth-century marriage and divorce. Clearly she has the knack for distilling impressive research and relating it in a way that is as engaging to read as any novel. Although Day's story has been the subject of other works, both fiction and nonfiction, Moore manages to bring to light new details - particularly about young Sabrina - that were previously unknown before the writing of this book. Even more importantly, Moore successfully contextualizes Day's story, portraying him not (just) as a misogynistic eccentric but as a particular - if at times somewhat distorted - product of the eighteenth-century forces of rationalism and idealism that swirled around him. In the end, readers are left not only with an entertaining portrait of one young man's experiment but also with a far greater understanding of the eighteenth century's obsessions and contradictions.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review first ran in the May 8, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Moth
    Moth
    by Melody Razak
    On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the United Kingdom, and on that same day the ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Lonely People
    All the Lonely People
    by Mike Gayle
    Mike Gayle's charming novel All the Lonely People introduces us to Hubert Bird, an 82-year-old ...
  • Book Jacket: Perish
    Perish
    by LaToya Watkins
    It's a commonly cited fact that many perpetrators of sexual abuse, particularly men, are victims of ...
  • Book Jacket: Afterlives
    Afterlives
    by Abdulrazak Gurnah
    Afterlives, from Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, begins in late 19th century East Africa in ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Izquierdo
    by Rubén Degollado

    A masterful debut that weaves together the lives of three generations of a Mexican American family bound by love, and a curse.

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Who Said...

It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.