Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, J. Laslocky Good Wives started out slow and dry, and while reading the first few pages, I remember thinking, "I'm not going to finish this." Then something happened, and I'm not sure if the pace picked up or Ulrich moved on to richer history or if some other variable came into play, but I was hooked shortly thereafter. I didn't even notice how involved I was until more than halfway through the book, at which point I was still trying to read as I clocked back in after my lunch break. It takes her awhile, but Ulrich does succeed in drawing the reader into her subject.

Exhaustively researched, Good Wives occasionally gets bogged down by Ulrich's determination to move away from the common perceptions of the time period, but the vignettes of everyday life she presents are intriguing enough to prop up the reading when her arguments are thin. These same episodes are especially entertaining when she's operating on a solid foundation, easily one of the main motivations to keep turning those pages. With such a focus on women and their roles in society, there was always a danger of Ulrich tripping over the fine line between "women's cultural history study" and "feminist preaching." I was extremely relieved when Ulrich never crossed over, sticking as close to historical accuracy as is possible with such a sparsely documented period.

Overall an interesting read. Definitely not for everyone, yet if you like your history a bit eclectic and off-beat, give it a try. Just remember to stick it out past the first twenty pages or so, because the parched opening pages are not indicative of the rest of the book.