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Solitaire: The Intimate Lives of Single Women

by Marion Botsford Fraser

Toronto freelance writer and broadcaster Marion Botsford Fraser spent three years criss-crossing the country exploring the often misrepresented lives of today’s single women. The result is Solitaire, a book that offers some of the most frank, fascinating, and amusing writing for women and by women to hit the mainstream press in a long while.
Botsford Fraser, a divorced mother of one, spoke with divorcees, single mothers, lesbians, career girls, and widows, most of them over 30 – younger women are “not yet defining themselves as single,” she explains. Revealing how each one “plays out” her hand of solitaire, the book offers touching first-hand anecdotes about everything from masturbation to financial insecurity.
Many of these women are single by choice – they have tasted marriage or coupledom and they now say no thanks. Some shine in their professional lives, yet fail miserably when it comes to finding love. Many, often artists and writers, value their freedom and self-expression more than togetherness. Many have horror stories to tell. These often surface in “The Kitchen Table Tapes,” chapters interspersed throughout the book featuring transcripts from intimate tea parties with Botsford Fraser and three or four women.
All of the women deal with the stigma of being unattached, which persists, despite society’s progressiveness: “The biggest problem I have with being single is other people’s problems with my being single,” laments one woman.
Botsford Fraser’s journalistic skills are displayed throughout the book. The writing is brisk and clear, and only a non-judgmental yet sympathetic interviewer could have elicited such candour and detail from her subjects. And while she always allows the other women’s voices to shine through, Botsford Fraser skilfully weaves in her own excellent analysis of the raw material, arguing that many of today’s laws, especially around taxes, pension benefits, and contractual obligation, are anachronistic.