Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A History of The Wife by Marilyn Yalom

I don't remember how A History of The Wife wound up on my tbr list. But I do love microhistories so I was happy to read it. While there was plenty of great information, the book dragged in places and had a tendency to get dry.
Yalom starts in Ancient Greece and Rome, working her way through history and up the continent. She follows English wives to America and remains in America for the last 3-4 chapters. I started referring to this book as the History of the White Wife. There's very little information presented about African-American women and none about Asian, Indian, African, or Latin American brides. A lot of the research she presents is about white women and she's clear about that. I hope there is a sequel to this book talking about the rest of the world.
But Yalom just doesn't rely on research. She uses literature, letters, and diaries to give the reader insight to the day to day lives of women through out history. A lot of the early information about wives was through the eyes of men. She also points out how laws changed through time where women went from property to more equal partners in the relationship. But hearing from the women through letters and diaries was the most effective way to hear about how they struggled with moving to a new country, existing without food, surviving wars, and struggling to balance work and family. The difficulties that women face today, working, maintaining a home, raising kids have been difficulties for women for centuries. It's clear that in order for women "to have it all", we all have to work together, become more of a community where people share responsibilities. More part time jobs or job sharing. More communal living so the household tasks are divided among the residents. I think that flies in the face of the independent American so we have a lot to work on.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a detailed history of European and American wives. A History of The Wife does show you how women in America today wound up with their struggle to have it all and mommy guilt. Others who shared their thoughts on A History of The Wife: Kittens With Mittens.
This was my tenth read for The Original TBR Challenge.


  1. This sounds so interesting! Adding it to my to-read list, and since my nonfiction list is pretty short, that means it's #2 after The Warmth of Other Suns, can't wait to start reading that one!

  2. this could be an enlightening read.

  3. I think this sounds really interesting. A little outside what I'd normally picked up, but one I think I'd probably enjoy.


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