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A History of Mistresses

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  459 ratings  ·  57 reviews
She has been known as the "kept woman," the "fancy woman," and the "other woman." The French acknowledge her existence by remarking, "The chains of marriage are so heavy that it often takes three people to carry them." She is Jeanne Antoinette de Pompadour, and Simone de Beauvoir, not to mention Marilyn Monroe and Camilla Parker-Bowles. She is a mistress, and she has been ...more
Hardcover, 510 pages
Published by HarperFlamingo Canada (first published 2004)
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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  459 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: women-history
This was fine.

In the way that a meal at TGIFriday's is fine.

It's not earth shattering, it's not enlightening. It's the historical equivalent of loaded potato skins--yummy, filling, but not nutritious.

Abbott, whose book History of the Wife I loved, goes encyclopedic on the life of every mistress mentioned in history or literature. It's like tiny little biographies of each of them, including the harem and the concubine system. She discusses Jane Eyre. Seriously. In a book about mistresses--that's
Jun 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, non-fiction
In the introduction to this book, Abbott suggests that the stories of mistresses she shares in this book kind of come together in some way to form a picture of not only mistressdom, but its effect on, and what it says about our society as a whole. I'm not sure she really succeeded with that. This book didn't really have a cohesive thesis; it was simply a collection of mini-biographies of mistresses through the ages. Most of which were very interesting, and engaging to read, but definitely not co ...more
A look at mistresses through history and the changing social mores regarding women's roles in society and sex. The little vignettes regarding the various mistresses provided a taste of their lives and made me want to read more on some of them. However, as she mistakenly attributes the famous quote 'Publish and be damned' to Admiral Nelson when it was actually the Duke of Wellington who said it, it does make you wonder what other historical facts she got wrong.
Carolina Casas
Jul 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I loved this book a lot and I would give it five stars were it not for the few mistakes and constant myths and racial stereotypes I will go to at the end of my review. The history of the other woman tells the stories of women that are rarely heard of or condemned, I love how she focused on all societal aspects and also focused on the present where the double standard still exists, and women are always the first ones condemned.
My only complaint was how colonial women and especially Mesoamerican
Πάνος Τουρλής
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Μετρέσες λοιπόν. Mistresses. Όχι σύζυγοι (=wives). Καλογραμμένο, μελετημένο, δε θα το έλεγα επιστημονικό, μιας και χρησιμοποιεί αρκετές καθημερινές, σχεδόν λαϊκές εκφράσεις, χωρίς αυτό να αναιρεί ούτε το σημαντικό περιεχόμενο ούτε την επιστημονική έρευνα, μελέτη και απόδοση της συγγραφέως. Κείμενα κατανοητά, απλά, καλογραμμένα, στο σύνολό τους διαγράφουν έναν κύκλο ανά περιόδους της Ιστορίας, κατά χώρες του πλανήτη και ανά λογοτεχνικά κείμενα. Μια ολοκληρωμένη ματιά γύρω από τις αστεφάνωτες του ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have just finished this fascinating book, Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman by Elizabeth Abbott. First published in 2003, this book provides carefully researched and well-thought through accounts of the other woman through history. There are thirteen chapters excluding the introduction and conclusion by the author. Abbott was mindful to remind us that two mistresses she is acquainted with and mentioned in her book had their names and their partners changed and had used aliases instead.

Amanda Reynolds-Gregg
This was an ok book. Nothing particularly exciting. It reads as a giant listicle of all the who's who of mistresses in history. There are stories that come off genuinely romantic and others that made me cringe. Some mistresses rose to unseen heights of fame and others were left behind by her lover (or lovers in some cases) to rot.

Abbott does offer some reflection into the world of mistresses but her book stops frustratingly short of being truly interesting or insightful. She also includes some
Sarah Buchanan
3.5 stars
Steven Gerrard
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, we take a look at stories about mistresses throughout history.
Margareta Perdeleanu
Intr-un final nu am putut ajunge la final si am lasat-o, poate cu alta ocazie s-o continui...
Katumbiria Triandhini
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tsundoku Neglected Book - 4
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
i expected a look behind the women, diary entries or personal stories from people who knew them. Answers of why some women chose to be the other. This only offered already existing speculation and some of the women are unproven but once again speculated mistresses. still an interesting read that shows the stigma that has often willfully been embraced rather then seeking the traditional seta of wife, and the unique power that was held by these women who did not have the bounds of marriage to enfo ...more
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was meticulously researched, very informative, and (I thought) incredibly interesting. Unlike other reviewers I do not really take issue with the fact that Abbot failed to provide a cohesive thesis and link all the stories of the mistresses together. Each one was different and I am not sure what kind of theme she could have established, except, perhaps a very depressing one. Monogamy is dead? It never really existed in the first place? Some mistresses ended up well off, others died des ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a scholarly approach to mistresses by a historian. It is organized with chapters organized historically (ancient times, 1960s), by social strata (royal mistresses, aristocracy, clerics, conquerors of the new world, artists, and outlaws) as well as a couple of chapters about mistresses across racial and ethnic divisions.

The summary of each mistress is presented in a couple of pages with some background about the men involved as well. As would be expected in a scholarly work, there are lot
Mistresses is an exploration of what the women in longterm relationships with men who aren't married to them have been like, and for the most part it sucks. Not the book, the relationships:) I found Mistresses to be very readable. A helpful thing considering it's innately depressing topic. I left this book being more grateful then ever before that I never went down that path. Despite being interesting two things really bothered me. The first was that I felt that some of the data was being presen ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Testo molto interessante che che parla dell’amantita’…condizione che rappresenta un punto di vista importante per scoprire in quali modi, diversi dal matrimonio, donne e uomini si relazionano…
L’autrice descrive, con uno stile semplice e mai noioso, le vicende di donne di tutte le epoche e di ogni parte del mondo, di tutte le classi sociali e di ogni razza: aristocratiche o schiave, intellettuali o frivole, maritate infedeli o indomite zitelle…L'unica cosa che hanno in comune è di essere state le
Jamie is
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book arranged by historical period; author's thesis is that the mistress institution is a bellwether for how women are treated in that society as a whole, i.e. in modern society, mistresses are often on more equal economic and social footing with the man. At the same time, she dispels notions held by many that such women must be unhappy with these arrangements. The book is composed entirely of character sketches, numerous women and their relationships are profiled under each histor ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Wow, yet another poorly researched history book. I've encountered so many of them lately that it's starting to make me think that maybe I should start writing my own book; at the very least, I'd be bothered to do more research than these so-called "historians." Some of the more glaring errors include attributing Wellington's famous "publish and be damned" quote to Lord Nelson, and referring to someone getting their "just deserts." I'm becoming increasingly annoyed that I can't seem to find a job ...more
Kristen Roe
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I first stumbled upon this book I thought it was going to be a cohesive group of short stories. I figured in the end with the author giving her take on the lifestyle of mistresses over the centuries. Though the book didn't carry on that way, I would still say the book is a great read. In every short story I was either introduced to new people of the past or given an unique insight on people that I have some prior knowledge of. A lovely twist and change to my usual historical fiction reads. ...more
Lauren Albert
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-world
Many reviewers complain about the lack of a thesis or thread to tie together all the separate stories but I didn't find it a problem. The book is the history of mistresses, mostly in Western society, told through brief biographies. Each chapter focuses on a theme--mob molls, mistresses of popes and priests, royal mistresses, etc., concluding with a chapter on mistresses in literature and a chapter on the affect of the 60s on the idea of the mistress. Sad and fun at the same time.
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book over two years ago and it really stays with you. It's amazing how women who lived under such oppression found ways to secure freedom, independence, wealth, and respect.At first glance you think Mistresses were only lucky due to the use of their bodies, but Ms. Abbott proves there is more to these women than exploitation. They were truly feisty, intelligent, and determined individuals.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it liked it
A History of Mistresses is a very pleasant book for it consists of many short stories, eash one for every mistress ( who is mentioned in that book). I found it pretty interesting with many unknown details.It is actually a book of history. Good thing is that if it tires you a little (if you're not a history type of reader) you can leave it and get back to it whenever you want, since you won't be losing the continuity of the book!
Feb 23, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
The writing so far is both academically professional and captivating. The author takes a sincerely interesting look at this group of women through history, and in literature. The book cover artwork, though seen from my pov as quite beautiful, can easily misconstrue the real material of the text...and makes the book look far more sexed up than it is.
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: relationships
Mistresses: A History is a global exploration of women’s choices throughout history told as much as possible through their perspectives. Abbot seems fair and evenhanded even as she admits to reconstructing what many of these women must have felt. A masterpiece of organization and research, any serious student of women’s history must read this book
Oct 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Some amazing, depressing, and fascinating stories in here. Also makes it very clear how different things were even a couple decades ago. I'd recommend it, but certainly not as light reading; if you're female, and have a good sense of your rights, prepare to be disturbed by history's attitudes. That could be true of a lot of books, but it's starkly obvious here.
I thought this would be a nice comprehensive text on the history of mistresses, but it was really just a long biographical list of every single famous mistress ever. It got so repetitive that I eventually just gave up. I mean really, among like 300 different women, there will be a lot of overlap! Also, there was some information that I wasn't sure was accurate.
I was rather roping for more of an exploration of the gender and sexual politics that go into the affairs that create mistresses. There was probably about ten pages of that, and 450 of--admittedly, very well-researched--biographies of famous and not-so-famous mistresses in history. I may now reconsider my previous interest in her other titles, A History of Celibacy and A History of Marriage.
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had a few moments of eye-opening chapters about the lives of some women that were not historically famous due to being margainalized. Their hardships and sacrifices reveal how history has been cruel. Other times in the book, it felt like I was reading the same story over and over. Overall, the book was either a page turner or was skimmed over.
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very engaging. I found the approach of doing a mini biography on individual mistresses. It is an engaging read and look at women throughout history who have either been forced into or chosen the role of a mistress.
Kristin Smith
after you get past the fact that she's not really the other woman (and the fact that I look just like the girl on the cover) ... not really amusing finding it on the shelf at my local Calabasas Barnes and Noble ... it was interesting ...
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