Spinster

Spinster: Making a Life of One's OwnSpinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating look at the lives of single women over the last 150 years or so, through the eyes of a young journalist coming to terms with the by now outdated expectation that women must be married to lead happy and fulfilling lives. She also writes about the lives of 5 other women writers who served as her role models. I think there is much more that could be said about this topic, since she looks mostly at women who did not want to marry and have families (some of them did anyway) and made choices that fostered their independence. To me, a spinster is someone not independent by choice, and who has not come to terms with their unmarried and unloved state. A spinster, to me, has neither husband nor boyfriend nor female partner. She throws all single women, divorced, widowed, and otherwise into the spinster category. So I was kind of expecting something else from this book, but judged on what it is, she writes well and it did make me think from time to time.

Book description: “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.

H is for Hawk

H is for HawkH is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful intimate look at the world of falconry, a memoir of loss and grief, and an examination of the life and world of T.H. White. A fan of White ever since the Disney version of A Sword in the Stone, I quickly realized how little I knew of this apparently tortured man. Any rereading of The Once and Future King will undoubtedly be enriched by this. Helen gives us a moving portrait of her father, as she examines the rawness of her own grief accompanied by the rawness of living close to a wild, untameable creature. Life with a goshawk confronts us with death — but death as a part of the whole cycle of life and being alive. Her lyrical meditations cover the gamut of human experience — history, philosophy, psychology, the natural world, hopes, fears, depression, madness, cruelty, love and healing — told with heart-wrenching honesty.

Book Description: When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer’s eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.