Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick
For me, there’s no greater joy than sitting alone in my living room with a glass of wine, cat curled up at my side, and thinking about my feminist forebears who’ve allowed me the freedom to be exactly right here. Equal parts biography, history lesson, social commentary, and personal essay, Kate Bolick’s look at the unmarried life in Spinster is a thoroughly engaging read; it is also smart and affirming.
The subtitle, ‘Making a Life of One’s Own’, cuts to the heart of this book: how to be someone for whom the relationship with the self is primary, and, in fact, enriches your relationships with other people – friends, family, lovers – and the world. Through presenting the life stories and works of five writers – poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, essayist Maeve Brennan, columnist Neith Boyce, novelist Edith Wharton, and social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, all women whom Bolick thanks for her own gradual awakening to the vast potential and possibilities of living an examined, solitary and rich unmarried life – Spinster examines the changing state of gender politics, economic freedom, and professional and artistic success for women throughout history who boldly chose to live, even if only for a short while, outside of the mould designed for them.
A few years ago, I read The Easter Parade by Richard Yates: a brilliant, devastating story of two sisters – one who marries and one who remains single. It left me wrenched in two. Bolick’s ‘awakeners’ serve as an antidote to Yates’s Emily Grimes whose ‘spinster’ life leaves her bereft, alone, unhappy, and utterly and spectacularly hopeless. For me, Spinster is a worthy homage to Bolick’s idols and a joyful manifesto for the single life for all of us, no matter our gender or relationship status. Crucially, it’s a life that is, even if it hasn’t always been, overflowing with infinite possibilities.
Amy Vuleta is the Manager at Readings St Kilda.