The Single Woman and the Fairytale Prince
October 2008, Polity
Jean-Claude Kaufmann's sympathetic study of the lives, aspirations and sometimes despair of the 'new single women' is based mainly on an analysis of a sample of the hundreds of letters sent to Marie-Claire magazine after it published a first-hand account of the single life. Funny, touching and at times profoundly sad, the letters paint a collective portrait of the single woman and her life that is both intimate and socially significant. Kaufmann concludes by situating their stories in a broad comparative context and considering the possible impact of novel phenomena such as the recent vogue for 'mail-order brides'.
- A highly original book about one of the key social changes of our time: the growing numbers of people - in particular, the growing numbers of women - who are living on their own.
- Explores the tension between the desire of many woman to lead independent, professional lives, on the one hand, and their longing for a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Mr Right - the ‘fairytale prince’ - on the other.
- Ties in with the kinds of themes addressed by television and popular culture - e.g. Sex and the City, Bridget Jones, etc.
- Includes up-to-date analysis of internet dating and ‘mail-order brides’.
- A beautifully written and very accessible book about the changing nature of personal life today, written by one of the leading sociologists in France.
“Freedom and autonomy have their glories and their miseries. Jean-Claude Kaufmann has composed a thoroughly researched inventory of both, while analysing in depth the present-day condition of women and its impact on the male half of humanity. As women replace self-effacement with newly gained self-confidence, the lynchpin is driven out of the family and the private sphere, and the hard-to-reconcile drives to autonomy and companionship result in the increasing fragility of commitments and fear of loneliness for both women and men. In masterly fashion, Kaufmann records the ongoing transformations in the human condition that follow. His findings hit at the very heart of the harrowing dilemmas which most men and women confront these days and struggle to resolve.”
Zygmunt Bauman, Universities of Leeds and Warsaw
“Anyone seeking to understand the fastest growing trend in personal life – more people living alone – should read this book. Jean-Claude Kaufmann moves elegantly between broad-brush historical overviews of changes in family life and fine-grained scrutiny of the narratives of women ensnared in the drama of these new demographics. Paradoxically, the opening up of personal choices for everybody seems to close down the options for many women, who are finding it harder to find the partners they long for.”
Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College, author of Why Feminism?
“This is a brilliant book on the everyday effects of the rise in female singledom. Kaufman provides fascinating insights into the pressures that single women experience today, from society's disapproval of female autonomy as a threat to traditional family models, to the hopes and disappointments of the modern dating world.”
Veronique Mottier, University of Lausanne