My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Like the title states, this book tells the history of marriage, both chronologically and categorically. It's also a story of women and their treatment in legal relationships.
First thoughts: This is a lot of history. A lot of talk about the difference between a house (someone's lineage) and a home (someone's family) and how the focus of marriage has drifted from one to the other. A reminder that the more a marriage is based on joy and love, the more fragile and optional (and uniquely meaningful) it becomes.
"Since the dawn of civilization, getting in-laws has been one of marriage's most important functions." -p33 (Everything else - childbearing, partner careers, business mergers, economic/political ties, finances, adulthood, emotional needs - that marriage has traditionally encompassed could be served through other means.)
"If men and women were true soulmates, why should they not be equal partners in society?" -p176 (I would add that while I don't believe in soulmates per se, any two people entering into a legal union (marriage) should be equal partners in that union. Marriage equality has helped usher in the sentiment of person and person as opposed to gendered/unequal roles.)
Women: In the history of marriage, women generally fall into one of two categories: virtuous, pure, needing protection OR sexual deviants, temptresses, needing limits. Getting married either rescued women from others or from themselves.
Recommended for: sociologists, historians, married people and unmarried people wanted to be informed on the specifics of an ancient legal practice, women, students.
Final thoughts: Coontz is good at not drawing too many personal conclusions and keeping things focused on data, though she lacks foresight in thinking about all the changes that would come with the switch from the Bush to Obama administration (namely, legalized same-sex marriage).
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