Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman

Elizabeth Abbott - Author

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ISBN 9781590208762 | 528 pages | 01 Sep 2011 | Overlook | 18 - AND UP
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She has been called the "kept woman," the "fancy woman," and the "other woman." She exists as both a fictional character and as a flesh-and-blood human being. But who is she, really? Why do women become mistresses, and what is it like to have a private life that is usually also a secret life? Is a mistress merely a wife-in-waiting, or is she the ver y definition of the emancipated, independent female? Elizabeth Abbott intelligently examines the motives and morals of some of history's most infamous and fascinating women, from antiquity to today. Drawing intimate portraits of those who have--by chance, coercion, or choice--assumed this complex role, Mistresses offers a rich blend of personal biography and cultural insight.

Praise for Mistresses :

"Abbott's tour of sensational love affairs provides juicy details and intelligent commentary on some of history's most marginalized women." -- Ms. Magazine

"A fascinating account of the other woman through history." --The Sunday Times (London)

"Ms. Abbott is delightfully indiscreet, with an eye for a good story and a colloquial style. . . She has done the ladies a service by bringing them out of the shadows." ---The Economist

"One of the surprises of this engrossing book is how mired in myth and fantasy it reveals our attitude to mistresses as being." --The Sunday Telegraph

"A lively and nuanced look at gender roles as they have been revealed by the lives of concubines and mistresses over the centuries...The book has the irresistible fascination of celebrity gossip...but it reveals far more than the foibles of the rich and famous. Full of fascinating details and illuminating insights." --Kirkus

"Mistresses, [Abbott's] prosopography of other women from Biblical times to the present, is refreshingly liberated from moral probity or censoriousness. Abbott's perspective, that of a seasoned, unbiased cultural historian, shines through this informed genealogy . . . Abbott is at her liveliest when covering history's endearing mistresses . . . Abbott offers a poignant, humanizing corrective to the mistress's marginalization . . . Abbott does justice to the many lexicographical variants of the term "mistress," which according to the Oxford American Dictionary, connotes domination, learnedness, authority, and, of course, being beloved. She probes the antic recklessness and wanton secrecy endemic to love affairs, breathing life into mistresses who evince the agency, autonomy, self-direction, and order of this definition." -- Bookslut

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