Book Reviews


A good partner is hard to find. But back in Georgian England, one wealthy young man tried to find his true love where few then or now would ever think to look - an orphanage. Wendy Moore writes about their story in her new nonfiction book, "How To Create The Perfect Wife." Cord Jefferson has our review.

CORD JEFFERSON, BYLINE: Thomas Day was rich. He went to the finest schools. He was well traveled. But still, there was one thing all of his money and influence couldn't buy, a girlfriend. He tried. He had a few failed relationships. He even proposed to a friend's sister once. But at age 21, he'd had enough. He decided love was an illusion, girls were fickle and shallow. He once wrote that the whole female sex could not furnish one, single rational woman.

But no matter, if Day couldn't find the perfect wife, he figured he make her. Using his money and his powerful friends, he adopted two orphan girls and started training them to be potential wives. Unfortunately, one turned out to be invincibly stupid but he liked the other, so he tried to toughen her up by pouring hot wax on her and pricking her with needles. I won't give away the ending but I think you can see where this is going.

The relationship does not work out. "How To Create The Perfect Wife" is skillfully written. It feels more like a novel than a history book. There are a few dull moments, of course. This is 18th century England we're talking about. But the lulls are forgiven when you delve into Wendy Moore's deep and thorough research and there are some great surprises along the way.

Most shocking is that Thomas Day would eventually become a beloved anti-slavery activist. He's still remembered mostly for that and not the fact that he once kidnapped and abused two orphan girls. Hopefully, this book will add some perspective to his legacy. The guy got away with enough while he was still alive. He shouldn't be able to escape his sins in death as well.

BLOCK: And the book is "How To Create A Perfect Wife, Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate" written by Wendy Moore. Our reviewer is Cord Jefferson, West Coast editor of the website Gawker.

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