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. Agent, Bruce Westwood. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kingston, an award-winning Canadian journalist, explores the changing meaning of marriage and, hence, of a woman's identity as a wife (or nonwife) over the past 40 years. Writing from a cultural and historical context, she connects disparate issues such as the current "wife gap" (if the traditional caregivers are out working, who will take on the responsibilities that are critically important to our culture but are devalued economically?); how the "wedding industrial complex" compels single women to plan a budget-blowing dream wedding yet ignores the reality that married women still do most of the drudge work; and the clinical problem of wives having no libido. The author also examines pop culture, e.g., the television show Sex and the City, and what it tells us about the ambiguity that American women feel about the wife role. The book is a fun read but doesn't add much that is new to the literature on women's sociology or cultural history. An optional purchase for public libraries and not necessary for academic libraries except to complete the women's studies/history collection. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/04.]-Cathy Carpenter, Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A wonderfully entertaining look at society's ambivalent attitudes about wives. Canadian journalist Kingston points out that wife, not hooker, is the oldest profession, but the idea of what constitutes a wife is full of contradictions and ambiguities, at least in Western society. Drawing on a wealth of material garnered from movies, television, books, newspapers, and magazines, she looks at the many facets of wifedom: wife-to-be, working wife, abused wife, trophy wife, power wife, ex-wife. The perpetuation by the "wedding industrial complex" of the myth of the modern bride as fairy-tale heroine, the romanticizing of domesticity by the media in the 1990s (think Martha Stewart), the justifications for spousal-abuse retaliation, the economic value of a wife, the financial repercussions of divorce-all are explored with a host of examples, mostly from pop culture, but also from interviews with wives, ex-wives, and other experts. A chapter on ex-wives shows us the calculated and joyous revenge of the jilted wives in Olivia Goldsmith's The First Wives Club, the wrath of Medea, and the real-life rage of Betty Broderick, a middle-aged American woman who, in 1989, shot her ex-husband and his new young wife as they lay sleeping. This mix is typical of Kingston's approach. "Unwives," as she dubs unattached women, also get her attention, with Sex and the City providing a fantasy view and interviews with real women showing another side. Well-padded with stories about famous and infamous wives, including Princess Diana, Hillary Clinton, Lorena Bobbit, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a slew of heroines from novels and TV sitcoms, the book is pleasantly amusing, wonderfully readable, and sometimesthought-provoking. Not surprisingly, Kingston concludes that there is no singular meaning of wife, but the trip she takes getting to that conclusion is definitely a diverting one. Ranks low in solid analysis but high in anecdotal evidence. Agent: Bruce Westwood/Westwood Creative Artists