Thomas Day, an 18th-century British writer and radical, knew exactly the sort of woman he wanted to marry. Pure and virginal like an English country maid yet tough and hardy like a Spartan heroine, she would live with him in an isolated cottage, completely subservient to his whims. But after being rejected by a number of spirited young women, Day concluded that the perfect partner he envisioned simply did not exist in frivolous, fashion-obsessed Georgian society. Rather than conceding defeat and giving up his search for the woman of his dreams, however, Day set out to create her.
So begins the extraordinary true story at the heart of How to Create the Perfect Wife, prize-winning historian Wendy Moore’s captivating tale of one man’s mission to groom his ideal mate. A few days after he turned 21 and inherited a large fortune, Day adopted two young orphans from the Foundling Hospital and, guided by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the principles of the Enlightenment, attempted to teach them to be model wives. After six months he discarded one girl, calling her "invincibly stupid", and focused his efforts on his remaining charge. He subjected her to a number of cruel trials - including dropping hot wax on her arms and firing pistols at her skirts - to test her resolve but the young woman, perhaps unsurprisingly, eventually rebelled against her domestic slavery. Day had hoped eventually to marry her, but his peculiar experiment inevitably backfired - though not before he had taken his theories about marriage, education, and femininity to shocking extremes.
Stranger than fiction, blending tragedy and farce, How to Create the Perfect Wife is an engrossing tale of the radicalism - and deep contradictions - at the heart of the Enlightenment.
I read a couple of articles about this book before it came out and it made me very interested in reading. The premise was creepy but fascinating - a wealthy yet eccentric Georgian-era oaf selects two orphans with plans to mold one into the perfect wife.
The book did not live up to my expectations, although it was very readable and parts were fascinating. The most disappointing portion of the book was the part dealing with the relationship between Thomas Day and his two charges - Sabrina and Lucretia, names he gave them. This part of the book, which was the focus of the articles I read, didn't really live up to the hype. There is no good way to explore the relationship between a grown man and a pre-teen girl, without it becoming uncomfortable or creepy and I think the author tried so hard to avoid that, this part of the book was dry and dull.
What was interesting was the discussion about Day's circle of friends who formed the Lunar Society including Charles Darwin's grandfather and several of the authors, poets, philosophers and politicians of that time. A group that seemed so educated and erudite I could not figure out why Day was allowed to participate. Although, it bothered me that so many of these people knew about Day and his bizarre experiment and didn't try to put a stop to it
But the most interesting part of the book was the author's ending list of all the subsequent books, novels and plays that were based on this true story, including, at least partially, Shaw's Pygmalion. This is one of those foundational stories that I think I should have known about.
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What disappointed you about How to Create the Perfect Wife?
The performance was SO awful that it was actually hard to listen to. Angele's accent kept changing and most of the book (that I managed to get through) was read in a very distracting sing song style with certain words read with a different accent. It was horrible. Just when you think you can get the rhythm of the reading it changes and then goes back to the sing song style so you can never actually acclimate your ears. Horrible. Just horrible.
What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)
I couldn't finish listening to this horrible reader. I'm going to read the book instead.
Would you be willing to try another one of Angele Masters’s performances?
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
The subject seemed like it would be really interesting.
Any additional comments?
Save your money, don't buy this audiobook.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful