Read A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom Online


A History of the Wife weaves a complex tapestry as it outlines the roles, customs, and cultural position of women in Western marriage. The work is engaging, filled with interesting anecdotes and stories, and is an incredibly lively read on a thoroughly interesting subject much in need of a closer look. In breadth, the book ranges from biblical times to the present, and inA History of the Wife weaves a complex tapestry as it outlines the roles, customs, and cultural position of women in Western marriage. The work is engaging, filled with interesting anecdotes and stories, and is an incredibly lively read on a thoroughly interesting subject much in need of a closer look. In breadth, the book ranges from biblical times to the present, and in sheer scale it attempts to present a unified series of images of the Western wife over the course of some 2,000 years. In doing so, Professor Yalom has presented us an interesting grid, well conceived and wonderfully written, with which we can begin to examine this cultural phenomenon.One of the main strengths of the work is its method: Yalom draws heavily on diaries, newspapers, journals, and personal letters, and she interweaves these with citations from the laws, general customs of the times, religious rites, and civic procedure. By moving in a very fluid way from the abstract to the particular, what we see emerging, in each era, is a lively picture of how the general affected the individual. The book makes it real, makes us wonder, and helps to recover for us so many of the lost voices of women over the centuries, silenced by the overshadowing "great men" approach to history. These are not so much the stories of "great women" as they are the telling of everyday life. In reading them we get a fuller sense of what the time and place may have been like for the women whose voices we are listening to. It is the dignity of these everyday voices that holds us, intrigues us, and invites us to read further. A History of the Wife links the ancient, the medieval, the Victorian, and the modern, and makes a strong historical and narrative case for its subject.Along the way, we are treated to many interesting insights, observations, and historical facts: Nero was officially married five times -- three times to women, twice to boys; until the Middle Ages, marriages in Catholic Europe often did not involve any ceremony at all, and "church weddings" do not appear on the scene until well into the evolution of Christian Europe. The role of women changes slowly in the West, and the role of religion, from the biblical period through early Christianity to the changes brought by the Reformation and the voyages to the New World, are mapped for us in a sweeping overview.A particularly strong section of the book is the documentation of the last 50 years of the cultural institution of marriage, and the vast changes brought by World War II and the cultural ferment of the '60s. This is made more impressive because of the compelling histories that the work recounts for us in the 2,000 years before our own era.An old adage maintained that "everyone needs a wife"; this lively book tells us who followed that adage, why and how they did so, and how we got to where we are now....

Title : A History of the Wife
Author :
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ISBN : 9780060931568
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 464 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A History of the Wife Reviews

  • John
    2019-05-05 16:36

    TL;DR: Yalom does a great job of summarizing her material, though there are some issues along the way.To effectively review A History of the Wife, let’s start with some of the alternative titles that I think this book could (or should) have:A History of the Wife in the Occident/WestA History of Wives in the United States, Including Historical Background MaterialsA History of Women, with a Concentration upon WivesWhy Women Should Be Proud of Their FreedomsA History of the Interactions between Men and WomenI want to be crystal clear on this point: I am not denigrating, insulting, or otherwise putting the purpose of this volume down in offering these alternative titles. I am merely pointing out my first point as succinctly as possible: I’m not sure that this book was appropriately named. I’ll explain and tie this back below. To fully understand my critique, let’s start with the problems I think Yalom’s book has:First, when I first got my hands on this book, I thought ‘Oh, great! I always wanted to learn about wives the world over!’ As I started reading through it, I quickly realized that the scope of this work was much narrower than what I initially believed it to be. Yalom never makes a sustained reference to the Orient, Africa, Australia, or basically anywhere else on the planet besides Europe and the United States. While Europe is a strong focal point of wives in the West, there must certainly be a fascinating history of wives (or something akin to the term) in the East. Thus, the problem is that this book says that it is a history of “the Wife,” yet it doesn’t own up to the title since it concentrates on a very specific segment of the world. Even in that segment, it quickly loses the grand scheme of its design—the book starts in the ancient world, moves to Greece/Rome, moves to the western portions of Europe, and then ends in the United States. That is not just a geographical tracing of the subject, but also a chronological one. In other words, if you want to know what modern brides are like in Greece, you will need to go outside of this book. If you want to know what brides were like when they crossed the Bering Land Bridge (to form the American Indian tribes), you will need to go outside of this book.Second, this book has an agenda. I don’t have a problem with that, and I suspected it going in, as the back material suggests it (it is worded: “For any woman who is, has been, or ever will be married, this intellectually vigorous…analysis…”). However, I think the project gets in the way of the material just a little. Yalom is not shy about telling us her reasons for the work, nor does she demure in proudly tying the background material to the present day advances that women have made. To that I say resoundingly: GOOD! GREAT! Seriously, great! But scale back the rhetoric directed at women and instead, you know, maybe just direct it at people. I’m married; my wife bought me this as a kind of gag gift (“Honey, now you have to know about how to take care of me!”) but also because she knows that I appreciate intellectual works, especially for traditionally disadvantaged groups. While reading it, I felt like this book was more ‘GO TEAM’ than ‘So, look—women had it bad. Let’s ALL talk about that.’ I did get the latter vibe in the book, but this was subsumed sometimes under the former.This ties to the third point I want to make: Sometimes in the book Yalom lost sight of wives and instead concentrated on women. Again, I have no problems with this, but a better title for the book may have been in order. I will offer a great deal of credit where it is due: She seems to recognize this in some sections, and she makes prodigious efforts to tie those sections back to the main focus. In addition, I admit that the subject does tend to lean heavily upon independent women, not all of whom were married. As such, it was a delicate balance that she needed to strike in the work. Thus, please understand that as a reviewer I am cautioning you, the future reader/potential reader of her book that this may strike you too. I am not knocking the issue, just noting it in passing.Fourth (and finally) in criticism is an issue that will lead me into my praise: If you have had a basic liberal education at a 4-year institution, Yalom’s book might not have that much to offer you. Specifically, if you have had a class in Greek culture, a history of the West (preferably Europe and the States), and a British Literature I course, you have about 60-80% of this book already covered (assuming that you had decent teachers). Put another way, much of this book is simply a review of things you have already read. For instance, you probably already know about wives in Greece in relation to Greek homosexuality, the works of Kempe, and the women’s movements of the last century…Which brings me to my praise: If you have NOT had that kind of education, or if your education wasn’t in the arts/history, then this book was written for you. It has excellent information on wives in the periods that I mentioned, takes a scholarly tone throughout (though watch for the agenda), and attempts to tie all of its information together to a cohesive argument.Okay, I admit it: You (my reader) are probably saying to yourself—“You can’t have your point both ways! You just gave backhand compliments on everything!” I realize it comes across this way. When I thought about how to write this review, trust me, I thought long and hard about these things. The fact is that I like this book. A lot. When my daughter is older, I hope to coerce her into reading it, as it think that any woman in the West needs to know this information. I admire Yalom’s project and feel that it accomplishes what she set out to do. This is a tough topic to strike the right balance on; though there are some rough spots, on the whole she does a wonderful job.To wrap up my praise, I can only say this: If I were to teach a course on feminist studies, this would be on the reading list. If I were to offer a short one-volume analysis of the wife to any person, this would be the one. If I wanted to summarize/start any person on a liberal education of women in the West, this would be the volume I would pick. I think those are high compliments given what other texts I have read in my career (I have a BA and MA in English studies, with strong interests in history and philosophy, including basic feminist texts). I hope that you, my reader, find something of value in her work as well.

  • Ana Rînceanu
    2019-05-14 20:52

    This book was a delight to read and very informative, but it's mainly about white women of English descent and how the roles of wives has changed in the UK and US. It's very Eurocentric, but it has broadened my understanding on the topic considerably.

  • Erika RS
    2019-05-20 15:50

    This book describes the history of marriage as it relates to modern marriage in America. The lives of wives in the ancient world are examined by looking at wives in the Bible, Greek wives, and Roman wives. Yalom then marches on through history, examining Medieval Europe, early Protestant wives, republican wives in America and France, Victorian wives in England and the U.S. (including those on the frontier). She then gets into the more modern era and looks at the changing role of women and wives in the late 19th century and the history of issues such as sex, contraception, and abortion in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. Finally, she looks at wives in WWII and briefly examines how the role of the wife has changed in the last 50 years.The common theme of this book is that what it means to be a wife is always changing with time and with culture. The so-called traditional nuclear family of a mother homemaker, a father breadwinner, and a couple of children is actually no more common than many other modes of family life. Throughout history, there have been times and places where both parents have worked, where children were sent elsewhere once they reached a certain ages, and where the household was much more diverse (extended family, servants, apprentices, etc.). Sometimes women were assumed to be more full of sexual desires than men and sometimes women were assumed to be frigid towers of purity.Marriage can be an economic relationship, a political relationship, or a emotional relationship. These days, we think that it should be primarily an emotional relationship, but throughout much of history, that idea was ridiculous; marriage was a way to solidify political ties or increase your economic worth. Over time, love became an important factor in choosing a spouse, but it is only recently (since women started becoming more independent, in fact) that love and personality became the primary factors when choosing a spouse.Yalom also makes the point that what seem like modern issues about sex, contraception, and abortion actually have histories going back hundreds of years (and a public history going back about 150 years). The unequal sexual freedoms accepted for men and women have been the issue of private discussion many centuries, and women have always shared the secrets of contraception and medicinally induced abortions since at least the middle ages. Ancient cultures practiced infanticide, and while it was never approved, there were times when it was certainly ignored. What changed in the last 150 years is that this discussion has become public.In short, the role of the wife is constantly evolving (as are the closely related issues of the husband, children, and sex). Acknowledging this is important; it shows the error in thinking that marriage is now corrupted and ruined and that marriages of the past fit some idealized perfect mold. Marriage has always been changing; marriages may be less stable today, but beating ones wife and children is no longer acceptable. It is neither going downhill nor approaching some ideal; like all human institutions, it is just changing in response to the world around it and will continue to do so.

  • Althea Ann
    2019-05-07 17:53

    In many ways, this book illustrates why I rarely read non-fiction books, preferring instead to get my facts from magazines, journal articles, and news outlets. The prose is unexceptional and inconsistent, veering in tone between academic and chatty. The content is almost random, providing a lot of anecdotes but failing to provide what the title promises: a history of wife-hood.A better name for this book would be: “A Background for American Wives of European Ancestry.” Admittedly (as was pointed out to me when I started complaining about it) the back of the book does note the Western focus of the book. So it’s not precisely fair to fault the book for not being what I wanted it to be: a clear view of the different legal and social obligations that have accompanied the concept of marriage in different time periods and cultures. Instead, this book tells a quite familiar tale. No one with a passing acquaintance with Western History is going to learn anything new or shocking here. In keeping with the old idea that American culture is based on Greco-Roman society, Yalom starts off with ancient Greek and Roman marriages, proceeds to medieval and Renaissance Europe, spends quite a bit of time on Frontier wives in America, goes on to the Victorians, the effect of the early feminist movement, the development of contraception, the effect of WWII, and modern times (in the United States).Even within the scope of the book, so many opportunities are lost. There is no discussion of how different cultures’ bringing their own marriage traditions and expectations to America is a factor in society, no mention of gay marriage or alternative family arrangements – nothing more challenging than a mild feminist perspective is included.Rather than making a historical argument, or even really talking that much about the book’s topic, Yalom really has just collected a bunch of anecdotes about women throughout history who happened to be married. Luckily, many of them are really fascinating, interesting anecdotes. I love history, and I love reading things like old diary and letter excerpts to gain insight into others’ lives and perspectives. I didn’t mind keeping this book around for a bit, working my way through it by picking it up every so often to read the next segment…

  • Becky
    2019-05-17 15:33

    This book is so eye opening. It’s one thing to be vaguely aware that 200+ years ago thing were completely different for women, its another to travel through time with them, feel their sorrows, empathize with their fear, and realize that even our own grandmothers lived in a different world from modern marriages. And we still have so far to go. This book provided one of the best reading experiences of my life. It’s one of those books that changed me on a very personal level. I learned so much, and Yalom presents an easy to read, comprehensive history, of what the word “wife” has meant through the ages. I personally think it’s a must-read for all newly reads. The book can be a bit dry at times, but I don’t think that will be off-putting for non-history people. I really cannot state how mindblowing I think this book is. I also recommend Yalom’s “A History of the Breast,” although I did enjoy “ A History of the Wife” more.

  • Amee
    2019-05-11 14:01

    Something you would read in a women's studies class, but very readable and a page turner...makes you appreciate your husband and honor the women that broke the chains for us to make life for women easier...

  • Shelly
    2019-05-02 15:52

    This book is so interesting about the history of the wife. It starts in biblical times, goes through Roman times, to Renassaince times, clear up to modern times and shows the differences and customs and reasons for marraige.

  • 'stina
    2019-05-03 19:52

    I'm about two or three chpaters in. A few nights ago, I finished a book called A History of the Wife, which was part historical documentation and part sociological/anthropoligical review. It was a walk through the evolution of (Western) marriage over the last 4,000 or so years, and the last hundred have been particularly revolutionary. Frankly, fuck traditional marriage. I don't want to be in a subservient relationship with my spouse. I don't want to have financial and social decisions in my and my family's life made by someone else. I don't want my primary responsiblity in life to be the household. I don't want to be bought and sold by my husband and my father. I don't want the basis of my relationship with my spouse to be procreation and whatever it is that he deems proper. What's pretty amazing about the book, though, is how strongly it demonstrates the way that marriage has changed in this last half-century or so and how much we're on uncharted territory right now. It's hard to pinpoint any particular catalyst--education, westward expansion, evolving property and political rights, evolving family law--but I'd think that women beginning to demonstrate economical independence from their spouses really got the ball rolling. Women started working for pay en masse in the 1800s, but usually they'd stop working outside the home once they got married. WWII seems to have changed that. Wives were asked to pick up their husbands jobs, and they didn't really return to the kitchen after that. What it means to be a wife in 2009 is very, very different than what it meant in 1909. A wife is likely to be an essential part of the economic well being of the family. She can vote. She can buy and sell her own property. She can leave her spouse. She can make determinations about her marriage based on love and sex rather than stability and the likelihood that her husband will provide for her. An interesting subplot to the book that didn't get explored as much as I would have liked (though I asssume there are other sources I could go to if I wanted) is that traditional gender roles are looser in upper classes than they are in lower classes. Upper class males (at least according to the data cited in the book) aren't hung up as much on proving their masculenity by sticking to traditional gender roles as lower class males. I wonder, though, if that's changing too.

  • Lexi
    2019-04-28 14:32

    This book has been on my reading list for quite a while. I bought it several years ago (probably with some Amazon money) and it's been sitting on my shelf ever since, staring balefully at me. I'm not the biggest non-fiction reader, but this book appealed to my feminist self, which is, I suspect, why it was on my reading list. It is a little out of date (published in 2000), but most of the information it covers has remained unchanged, since it is primarily a history book. Yalom writes about wives throughout history, starting with Biblical wives, taking us through the days of the Greeks and Romans, and ending up with the present day (the year 2000). It is very well-written, not at all dry, which is always my greatest fear with non-fiction. Yalom does not talk down to her reader, but neither does she use high-flown language. She has a nice conversational style which draws the reader in and makes one want to continue reading. I found the subject matter fascinating. I'd honestly never given much thought to the specific role of "wife," or how it had changed through the years, so it was interesting to trace the evolution of societal expectations and women's own desires for their lives. I am a wife, and, like most people, I think I tend to generalize my own experiences to others. This book made me think about that - we don't all have the same experience, as wives, as mothers, as women. And I'm glad I learned more about the evolution of the wife throughout history. Four out of five Whatevers. Recommended for feminists, especially burgeoning ones. The book really makes you think about why the feminist movement has such an importance to wives in general. Also recommended for those who have an interest in social history and/or those who just want to learn more about the way the role of the wife has developed over the years.

  • Katerina
    2019-04-29 17:40

    Before you read this review you should know two things about me:A) I have an aversion to Nonfiction booksB) It took me more than two months (and less than three) to finish this book.That being said, I was determined to finish the first Nonfiction book I'd read in a year. Yup, not including my textbooks, it had been a year since I last read a nonfiction book. Honestly, I was sick of the predictable Romance books and teen fantasy novels that I was reading. Of course, the main character was the hero. Of course, they were going to save the world and fall in love with potentially two people at the same time. Every, single, time I think, "Hey! They are actually going to stay together forever." They don't. The girl becomes... yeah. And feels an attraction towards the other guy. So, I chose to read this book to end my nonfiction drought and also because there are things about wives that I've always been curious about.The content of the book is great. There is no doubt about it. But what I'd improve is the presentation. By the middlings of the book, I was bored and exhausted. I confess I scanned the last chapter. (In which some of the content was not to my liking. Be warned, Yalom doesn't only talk about the house hold duties of a wife. She also discusses "wifely duties" aka "Bed business" (As Lisa See, in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan so eloquently put it.)) What I did appreciate was that every so often Yalom would present us was a terribly interesting statistic or story, that would make me want to hear more or tell someone.Overall, I'd say this is a one time read and then a return back for reference.

  • Briynne
    2019-04-24 15:46

    Ever since I got married, I've found the concept of marriage very interesting and hence I read books like this. Honestly, I wanted rather more out of this book since the premise - which was admittedly, as a history of the institution that largely defined women's life experiences for a huge portion of recorded history, was impossibly huge - struck me a quite tantalizing. But, as one might expect, this fell well short of the aim stated by the title. I liked this book; it was pleasant reading, generally informative, and occasionally very funny. However, I'm not sure I really learned anything new other than particular details and anecdotes. The take-home points were all pretty tired and expected. For much of Western history, women had no individual rights or even individual identities as wives. Check. Women who attempted to break the mold, and their husbands, were ridiculed and scorned. Check. Marriage is now a haven of equality and love, although some Philistines still attempt to insist on traditional gender roles, etc. Check, check, and check. I wanted a bit more insight than the same old stuff about women discovering the empowerment of a paycheck when they took war jobs during the 40s and then finding that dependent homemaking really wasn't all that fulfilling after all in the 50s. In retrospect, this book was a little depressing. I love being married and it makes me sad that marriage seems to have been such a complete downer for so much of its history. But, it was a fairly good read that makes you appreciate what you have.

  • Nancy DeValve
    2019-05-22 15:35

    First, I think the title was a little misleading and should have been more A History of the Wife in Europe and Her Descendants in North America or something to that extent. In other words, she said very little about African-American women, and even less about women from the Indian nations, or Hispanic women in N. America. She mentioned European women often, especially in France and Great Britain. The History of the Wife living in Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, or Eastern Europe was mentioned not at all. So the title gives a false impression.I expected the book to be written by a feminist, and it is. So that bias comes across strongly in the book and, again, I'm not sure "History of the Wife" is the best title. Perhaps History of Wives Moving into Feministic Culture or something like that.That said, it really was an interesting book, whether or not I agree with her world view. I learned a lot and felt that it was worth reading to see how what is expected of a wife in 2016 is so much different from what was expected of a wife in history.

  • Michele Beacham
    2019-05-09 19:52

    I actually really enjoyed this history of wives from Greek and Roman times up until the modern day. It was pretty quick reading for me, even though I usually digest non-fiction via audiobooks because I tend to get stuck in non-fiction. I thought it was engaging and interesting. I'm getting married soon, and as with anything I undertake, I decided to read a lot about it. It's very librarian-y of me :)

  • Dawn
    2019-05-02 13:32

    I picked this one up fairly randomly and was very glad I did. It examines women's place in society (and how it has changed) through the lens of marriage. It's very readable and moves right alon, and I thought it was fascinating.

  • Amira Deliwala
    2019-05-19 14:40

    This book is amazingg... However its historical non fiction..or may be metafiction. this book is an eye opening . It gives you the overview of the wives from bibical times to roman, Rennaissance period. & how it was changed in 2002. Recommended to those who love historical.novels.. ♡

  • Nezka
    2019-04-28 19:43

    While the anecdotal evidence from all types of sources was highly interesting, I didn't think this was a rigorous work of history, and felt the author was too circuitous in getting to her argument about the changing stature of the wife.

  • Holly
    2019-05-21 20:45

    this was interesting, but I prefer the work of Stephanie Coontz on this topic.

  • Chris Leuchtenburg
    2019-05-02 16:56

    I became somewhat restive during the early chapters which are based on such a thin set of sources, primarily the bible, well-known authors and 'legal and religious considerations.' I really didn't feel that I was getting much below the surface. But maybe it is impossible to cover satisfactorily such a complex topic over three thousand years.So, I started scanning ahead hoping that the later topics would have a more substantial basis. But even in the twentieth century, "Unfortunately, we do not find in female-authored writing from this period...." In addition to the uneven availability of at least consideration of sources, Yalom's scrutiny of this immense time period is lumpy; for instance, there is an entire chapter on the 1940's followed by a concluding chapter covering the next half century. Other readers have suggested alternative titles. On the last page, the author enthuses, "Above all, I wish them [wives] the courage to persevere toward that ideal of equality in marriage that has been in the making for several centuries." Why American Marriages Are Still Not Perfectly Egalitarian.

  • Anne Schrock
    2019-05-06 18:34

    This book covers quite a bit of information in a thoughtful and helpful way. It definitely is more fact-based and linear - so those trying to understand more philosophical or sociological reasons for some themes she covers, may get bored. And an understanding that this is about the history of mostly-white, European women. A lot of her generalizations and claims for important parts of history probably don't line up with African history of women in leadership, since they had Queens long before Europe did, or the Asian continent in general.

  • Amanda
    2019-05-18 15:59

    I believe in being informed. Any woman considering marriage should consider this read before tying the knot.

  • Kellee
    2019-04-25 13:42

    Excellent book.

  • Shaunna Caitlyn
    2019-05-15 13:53

    I've been wanting to dive into history, a genre I am interested in, but always have a difficult time grabbing on to because of the way a lot of history books are written. A History of the Wife sparked my interest because of the subject matter, but also because, although it was fact oriented - it had a flow and narrative that kept me interested and wanting to learn more. Stories, whether truthful or mythological were intwined in the sections for contextual purposes and it helped me absorb what I was reading and interpret with my own understanding of the subject. You might think you have an understanding of the role of wife throughout the era's but we mostly only understand from our own cultures and belief systems. You'd think reading it, you would say "oh wow we've come along way", but it actually did the opposite. It's also a way in to cultures that still practice some of these views on women and their role as a wife, whether it was chosen or not.

  • Melissa Myers
    2019-05-03 17:56

    After getting through to Yalom's chapter called "Victorian Wives on Both Sides of the Atlantic", I think I get the gist of this Western European take on the history of wives. It was very well-written and I enjoyed Yalom's anecdotal style but I was really disappointed that she spent all her focus on Western Europe when Eastern Europe, India, Asia, Native Americans, etc. all have some sort of marriage ceremony and that was what I was really interested in reading about. Granted, then it would have been more of a anthropological survey of the wife (and a much more intimidatingly thick read) instead of pretty much describing how Western European and American women have gotten to the point that they are at now with feminism and all sorts of freedoms that were otherwise not enjoyed. Another thing that I wish would've been in this book if I can't have a survey of the entire world history of the wife is minutia about Western European and American wifedom. What I mean are little asides celebrating aspects of the time period being discussed. All I want is little factoids that I can pick out and say "hey did you know..." and while I did get that a little with her extremely interesting personal histories, I just want something extra. One book that I read every once in a while that does this well is "Europe: A History" by Norman Davies. Granted, the book is 1,392 pages and I clearly haven't finished it (and I'm not sure I ever will) but I love just thumbing through and reading the little asides and his writing style keeps my interest well enough that it satiates my need to study European history. See, and even Davies' book covers the entirety of Europe not just specific parts (Yalom really only discusses wives in Ancient Greece, Rome, England, France, and Germany). Sure, you may read this and say, "quit your whining; if you dislike Yalom's style just read Davies" but the point is a liked Yalom's book for what is was and I like Davies' for what it is. I like reading history books that only focus on a certain aspect or population and create a vision of history from that perspective which is why I was interested in Yalom. Davies is my source for the all-encompassing but that really isn't the whole history in its entirety.

  • Kim
    2019-05-01 14:46

    "But neither the imperial Romans nor hagiographic American historians bothered to ask what those 'exemplary' women of the past might have thought of their own situations. They never asked whether those women were happy. It is one thing to judge a society by its public face....or the pages of government documents, all created by men; it is quite another to look at the expressions of women's subjective experiences in their poems, letters, diaries, and memoirs, or wherever else one can find them."Loved this book! It is a look at the role of the "wife" throughout different time periods in Western history, going back to ancient society (Greek and Roman) all the way through present day (published in 2001). This book is filled with primary sources like excerpts from letters and poems and the author pieces together a picture of what life was like for women at different times and how they felt. I think the individual feelings were across the board. Much like today some women thought marriage was great and couldn't be happier and some were miserable. Unlike today most didn't have an option to leave or to not marry.I think the author was honest when she was speculating if there was a lack of sources for a particular time period. This book is nonfiction but it reads like a novel to me because the women she profiles are more like characters that I wanted to know more about. Again the author was honest about if a particular woman or quote was an exception to the time period or if it was the norm (ex she talks about one wife who left a marriage and got to keep the property her family owned prior to the marriage, but that was not usually the case)One reviewer says this book combines a "scholar's rigor and a storyteller's craft" I couldn't agree more! I don't think you have to be a "feminist" to enjoy this book. Anyone interested in the evolution of marriage or wants an overview of women's history through the eyes of women who actually lived and left memoirs would enjoy it.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-16 13:38

    While this book is academic in nature, it was actually didn't read like most traditional academic books to me. It was easy to get through and I didn't feel like I had to backtrack to recall any information like I usually would with this kind of book. The book is insightful and I think masterfully works its' way through the history of the wife from Roman and Greek times to the present. There were times that it seemd the author got on a tangent more about women's history in general than the history of the wife, such as her chapter on World War II. She always came back, however, to how different circumstances and time periods affected the role of wife. It was very fascinating to see how the role of wife evolved, relapsed, and changed through history.The only things I would say could be improved is that as she gets to the more recent past, she focuses almost exclusively on American wives' experiences, and leaves other countries and regions by the wayside. I would have liked to see the continued comparison between European wives and their American counterparts. Throughout the book, she also focuses more on upper and middle class wives; I would have liked to see more and hear more from the prospective of working class wives throughout history.Of course, this book could have been thousands of pages long had she included every race and class and ethnicity of wife in great detail. For the length, I think Yalom did a very good job of depicting how the role of a wife has evolved.

  • Ann Stephens
    2019-05-16 13:44

    Borrowed from my local library. I almost laughed out loud at the title! Yalom does a solid job giving readers an overview of wifehood. She focuses more heavily on Western marriage traditions, and later in the book on marriage in England and in America. This made sense to me, as American law developed from English common law, but I don't know if people searching for world-wide views of marriage would find it helpful. One of the best chapters in the book deals with the history contraception and abortion in America before, during and after Congress passed the Comstock laws (which outlawed any use of contraceptive devices, sales of the same or even mailing information about birth control). If I could rate individual chapters, I'd give that one 5 stars. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting an overview of marriage in Westen Europe. While she doesn't get into detailed notes about every religious and civil law that controlled, and controls, life for married women -- that would take an entire library -- Yalom takes a huge area of study and breaks it down for the reader, showing the development of marriage as women changed from chattels to individuals to heads of households. The only reason I did not rate the book higher is that the author's voice tends to a somewhat dry presentation of facts, which makes some sections tough going. The information presented is well worth the effort, and as a writer of historical romance, this would make a welcome addition to my reference library.

  • Lindsay
    2019-04-30 19:41

    A long, complex look at how culture has shaped the role of the wife, and how real women living in the wife role have in turn shaped culture.In spite of the fact that there wasn't that much information in the book that was new to me, I still found it an interesting read. Putting everything in the context of history shed light on some of the more interesting women we get to read about.In the first half of the book, Yalom was very careful to point out that we only have stories from women of a certain class, race, and/or religion, and that we shouldn't make too many assumptions about how women really lived as wives from those few anecdotes. However, in the later part of the book, as we get into more modern times, Yalom seems to have lost this caution. From my reading, it seems that she assumes the experiences of the cultural majority (usually white, middle-class, Judeo-Christian women) are the experiences to highlight, in spite of the fact that we now have numerous historical documents and evidence to show the lives of women in the minority. Granted, Yalom does give much space to the lives of black women for much of that. But once we get past the civil rights era, black women aren't as prominent. (Hispanic women, Muslim women, and modern Native American women don't even get a mention.)Recommended for those interested in gender and cultural studies.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-26 20:58

    This is a hard book to rate! The author obviously did a lot of research, and I was impressed with how thorough she was. I think maybe the title of the book threw me off, though. I went into it blind so I was expecting a more well rounded overview of a wife from different cultures. As other reviewers have stated, this is really the history of the white woman (Spoiler- women have been oppressed by men for all of history). I was a bit disappointed about that, because I think a book about the husband/wife relationship as it appears in different cultures would be fascinating to read. That said, there were some interesting parts and others that dragged. The middle ages and from 1950-2000 were particularly tough for me to get through, but there were other time periods I really enjoyed. I felt that sometimes the author veered away from the 'wife' part of of this and more into tangents about women in general. Sometimes it worked and sometimes I wanted her to get back on topic. I bookmarked many passages and I am definitely going to go back and do some supplemental reading, but I can't really say this book was worthy of more than 3.5 stars. I'll round up instead of down based on the amount of time the research for this book must have taken.

  • Linnea
    2019-04-25 13:02

    When I first opened A History of the Wife, I looked at the introduction titled- Is the Wife an Endangered Species? This itself held my attention. However, in the act of moving onto chapter one, it was clear that this book was a tad slow for my taste. Just as I was gradually becoming unsure that I even wanted to complete the book, I moved further through the times. I then found myself truly intrigued by the history of Protestant wives, and affected emotionally by the duties and rolls of women in Europe, Germany, England, and America, 1100-1700. Yalom recounts incidents in the past, shares the writings and visions of wives, and adds sentimental representations of women, husbands, and families. I look forward to moving into more recent times with- Republican Wives and Wives, War, and Work.A History of the Wife, so far, has been an great read. Update: I am officially finished with A History of the Wife. Republican Wives and Wives, War, and Work were great, informative chapters. I am not at all disappointed.

  • Asho
    2019-04-27 15:02

    I found this book on the library shelf next to another book I was checking out and I decided to read it on a whim since I'm in a committed relationship that will (presumably) eventually be a marriage and I'd like to know what I'm getting myself into! I found this book to be an easy read, and it was interesting to be able to read the entire progression from the ancient Greeks to the 20th century in a single book. Unfortunately, Yalom's study did not have enough depth and complexity for me and ultimately it didn't tell me much I didn't already know about women's roles throughout history.However, I recommend this book for people who want a basic, popular history of the wife without much theory or academic jargon. I particularly recommend it for women who still persist in believing that a woman's role is to be subservient to her husband since Yalom points out that a) this has not always been the case throughout history and an egalitarian marriage is not just some crazy new radical liberal 20th century idea and b) subservience has often been extremely harmful to women.