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The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-first Century Paperback – March 21, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Despite its occasionally academic tone, this encyclopedic examination of wifedom should trump wedding magazines on the list of required reading for prospective brides. Canadian journalist Kingston's behind-the-scenes tour of not-always-holy matrimony begins with a visit to the inner sanctum of Vera Wang's exclusive Madison Avenue bridal boutique and ends with an analysis of how much a wife is worth in economic terms. Along the way, she shines her spotlight on the bedroom, several real-world first wives' clubs, Carrie Bradshaw's single-girl lair and the worlds of women who have killed or maimed abusive husbands. (Naturally, Lorena Bobbitt figures prominently.) While Kingston writes, "For all the crowing that marriage is in crisis, the institution still remains the preferred way to cement love," she also notes that a "strong marriage is an advantageous incubator in which to raise children" and "a source of varying degrees of economic support," and some readers might wonder if they're romantic fools for wondering how true love factors into the equation. But Kingston asks some important questions—How does marriage affect a woman's sense of self? Is it possible to place a dollar value on a mother's work? How is our idea of the wife shaped over the decades?—and challenges a new generation of brides to come up with their own creative answers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“The Meaning of Wife styles itself in the tradition of Backlash and The Beauty Myth: It's a pop-culture-literate survey of the last 25 years that serves up feminist ideas with a lively touch.” ―Joy Press, The Village Voice
“In The Meaning of Wife, Kingston ruminates with wit and wide historical range over the peculiar female estate of wife and its modern incarnations. . . . Kingston's spirited romp across the kitchens and boardrooms, bedrooms, courtrooms, and shopping malls of modern culture yields important . . . insights about wife-hood in the twenty-first century.” ―Chicago Tribune
“Provocative, smart.” ―Elle
“Entertaining . . . Kingston's quirky sensibility (shades of Caitlin Flanagan) and her clever readings of pop culture make this book stand out. . . . The analysis is delightful.” ―Newsday
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Top customer reviews
The author frequently tosses around shocking and thought provoking ideas throughout the text, and it was a very fun read. My only real issue with this book is that there was little to no writing on the positives of being a wife, which gave the book a bit of a negative tone, but overall, I would definitely recommend this book.
Kingston covers all the bases, beginning with the world's fascination with Princess Diana's foray into wifedom. In a chapter called "Heart of Whiteness," which is what I've always called "White Lace Dreams," she details the wedding dress selection and compares the white lacy dress to the wedding cake. "The modern wedding cake is a bride you can put in your mouth," is a quote attributed to food writer Jeffrey Steingarten. From there, the topics of sex and abuse, divorce and value are thoroughly portrayed. Strong vocabulary, this is academic material.
However, there have been several glaring typos in the text. That an editor read this, missed these mistakes, and sent the book off to press is troubling. I find these errors very distracting; they diminish the points that Kingston has so carefully crafted.
The author makes clear that the meaning of wife is inseparable from images of women from a variety of sources, including corporate advertising, movies, books, etc. A comprehensive bridal industry has emerged that emphasizes the perfect, elaborate wedding as being the foremost aspect of a marriage, shoving long-term, wifely realities to the background - the escapist wedding of Princess Diana being the epitome of that notion. In addition, wives can now supposedly rise beyond mundane drudgery by becoming domestic experts as directed by Martha Stewart and the like - a Superwife.
The author notes a curious reversal of sentiments among highly educated younger women, who are more and more eschewing independent careers advocated by feminism to become wives. There are any numbers of books and consultants to give advice to make that happen while the "clock is ticking." On the other hand, there is a discernible rise in women remaining single in the western world. While there is the pull of marital domesticity, the terms are now different. Women have achieved the wherewithal, both psychologically and legally, to be assertive concerning such matters as sexual satisfaction, infidelity, abuse, and divorce settlements.
There is no doubt that the book is geared to women of the upper middle class, highly educated and consumers of various media depicting roles for women. One suspects that for those women whose job is an absolute necessity, that choosing to stay at home after becoming a lawyer or investing time to make special decorations for the perfect dinner party is hardly understandable or pertinent.
There are a lot of considerations and views concerning the role of individuals in a marriage or whether to remain single. There remains a "wife gap" in trying to reconcile all of the aspects. The book does a fair job at examining some of the terrain. The author does ultimately admit that there is "no singular meaning of wife." So be warned, the matter remains complicated even after reading this book.
Most recent customer reviews
The only negative I have is the book cover. It is absolutely horrible cover.Read more