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I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage (2008)

von Susan Squire

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1257166,499 (3.4)4
In this provocative and ambitious book, Squire unravels the turbulent history and many implications of the institution of marriage. The author delves into the many ways men and women have come together and what the state of their unions has meant for history, society, and politics.

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Lots of fun to read....but not enough substance. I was promised "A Contrarian History of Marriage", but what I got instead was a glossy account (albeit amusing and well-written) of gender discord and inequity from earliest recorded time to the rise of Lutheranism.

Still a worthy topic for a book, just not what I was expecting. ( )
  ratastrophe | Feb 14, 2015 |
This is a witty, often hilariously humorous book, the history of marriage in the West from antiquity to the Reformation. Given how dismal much of that history is, Squire somehow managed to keep me (a male of a certain number of years and with some knowledge of most of the authors whom she discusses) reading and enjoying. I do wish she had acknowledged how extreme and marginal Margery Kempe was considered both in her own time and even now, however. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
An interesting whizz through the history of marriage, carefully selected for the more oppressive aspects described in prescriptive laws, orations and church edicts, and largely ignoring the cultural realities surrounding the same. Having an eye for the sharply witty turn of phrase is not the same as being historically accurate, and some interesting elisions are made -- Plutarch is described as 'several centuries after [Solon]', which certainly, six hundred years does qualify as, but I fail to see how that in any way makes the two Athens sufficiently identical to just slide between the two. The author mentions the breaking of the phalli, but doesn't include -- or doesn't know -- about the legislation on women's hairpins, and entirely dodges the issue of women's Athenian citizenship. I especially liked the blithe slipping between Plato, Demosthenes and Plutarch, all of whom were writing in different political realities for very different audiences.

The overall thesis is not badly made, but dishonestly illustrated. The elisions are telling, and for a reader with a better than passing acquaintance of cultural history of antiquity, disappointing. The writer's overall politics show rather badly. The tragedy is I'm in strong agreement with the overall premise that marriage has been an institution for millennia which is strongly invested in controlling women's agency, sexuality and rights in the interests of controlling their labour and children. This isn't the way to do it though. Even a cursory read leaves me seeing the contrary examples to this contrarian history. The gaps should be confronted and expanded, not slid over.
  ascexis | Oct 28, 2009 |
First off, I have to address it, the editing was pretty atrocious (I found at least 3 really glaring and embarrassing spelling mistakes/unfinished sentences); however, the information contained in the book was fascinating enough to make this Not a Big Deal. The author is witty and I found myself laughing out loud on lots of occasions. The writing style took some time to get used to, because I'm usually reading mass market type non-fiction. Susan Squire assumes you already know quite a bit about history, theology, philosophy and feminism if you've picked up this book, so there isn't much in the way of explanation. This made the book smooth reading once I adjusted - nothing there to interrupt the flow of ideas.The author begins in the Garden of Eden with the Bible's multiple takes on marriage and escorts us up to Martin Luther's front porch. I found the bits about the Classical/Ancient world the most interesting, and it was interesting to see how the same handful of theories were expressed in so many different forms and guises. Overall, a great review of wife and husband roles through a large chunk of history - quick and fun to read. ( )
  jentifer | Aug 15, 2009 |
I have mixed feelings about this book. It seems to be a pretty comprehensive history of the European, Biblical marriage. I left it wanting to know more about the history of marriage, maybe going into the Muslim and Eastern religions. She repeated herself a lot, which made her text somewhat dense. But the book was kept interesting by some of the practices she cited. ( )
  dweintraub4343 | Jun 15, 2009 |
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Marriage then ... is that what you call the monster?
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To call it "lovemaking" eons before anyone develops the idea of love, let alone links it with sex, would be absurd.
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In this provocative and ambitious book, Squire unravels the turbulent history and many implications of the institution of marriage. The author delves into the many ways men and women have come together and what the state of their unions has meant for history, society, and politics.

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