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The Group Paperback – September 16, 1991
2016 Book Awards
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"An admirable piece of fiction and the best book [Mary McCarthy] has written." -- Saturday Review
"Juicy, shocking, witty, and almost continually brilliant." -- Cosmopolitan
Mary McCarthy's The Group is a sharply-pointed satire of upper-class New England society which follows the post-college lives of eight Vassar graduates, class of '33. Helena was registered for Vassar at birth; Pokey forged her mother's signature on her college application in defiance of the family tradition of "being dim-witted and vain of it." Out in the "real" world, Dottie loses her virginity to a "bad sort" but discovers that she enjoys sex, while Kay subsumes her own talent to the artistic "genius" of her egocentric and philandering husband. Libby writes book reviews that are almost as long as the original material and Polly works as a nurse, while Priss is forced by her pediatrician-husband to go against "tradition" and her inclinations and breastfeed her baby, as proof of his theories. Elinor "Lakey" Eastlake, the sleek, rich leader of the group, travels about Europe and ultimately returns, full of surprises. Adopting the non-stop, generally well-intentioned, but hopelessly narrow-minded voice that typifies the worst of the group, Mary McCarthy filets Ivy League society, socialism, 1930s child-rearing practices, sexual double-standards, psychoanalysis, and men in general. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
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Top Customer Reviews
I have finally read Mary McCarthy's book and found it absolutely wonderful. Having completed it, I feel I understand my mother and aunts a little better. They were of the same genertion as Polly, Libby, Lakey, Kay, and the other eight Vasser graduates who are the protagonists of the book. Although my relatives attended state colleges in Wisconsin, I was exposed to "thinking" women who for the most part lived lives comparable to the women depicted in THE GROUP. All but one of my aunts married, and she became an "old maid school teacher." Some of my uncles were more liberal than others, but all of the men including my father had expectations about how their wives should conduct themselves after marriage and motherhood. I came of age at the tail end of this oppressive period when women were still called girls.
As we read about the oppression of women in other parts of the world today, I cannot help but wonder if younger men and women can fully appreciate how recently civil rights have been extended to U.S. and European women. It's so easy to discount feminists but without the resumption of the Woman's Movement in the late 1950s and 1960s, a husband like Harald might still be able to have his wife Kay committed to a psychiatric hospital if she defended herself from his drunken attack.Read more ›
Dottie, Lakey, and the other members of The Group--eight Vassar graduates trying to make their way after college--all find out plenty about the roughness and beauty of living through the course of the book. Yet it is impossible to say that this is a superficial work, because McCarthy never treats her characters lightly. Yes, they act a little flighty at times, but there is always a human edge to their stories. When Dottie takes a lover she shouldn't, according to The Group, the entire affair is treated with remarkable sensitivity and candor. Therein lies the charm of this particular work.
McCarthy has a knack for getting a lot out of her characters. She peopled this novel with plenty of personalities, but they never simply read as sketches or caricatures. Even Kay and Harald, the queen and king of the over-dramatic (an ironic and clever connection to the theater they both love so much) are amazingly well-written and well-thought out. Sure there are moments when the reader may roll his or her eyes in annoyance at some of the more pandering moments, but there is always the next page, ready to lead the audience back into the charmingly fragile relationships that make this book so lovely.
While this may not be the epitome of McCarthy's writing, it is certainly a novel worth the read, and well worth the thought it should generate afterwords.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Still don't know what all the hoopla is about this book. Tried reading it 3 times finally finished it. Not worth my time.Published 21 days ago by Amazon Customer
Shallow and stilted , boring novel about a group of Vassar graduates. MaryMcCarthy does a disservice to Vassar.Published 1 month ago by Maia
The Group, written in 1963 follows eight Vassar graduates from the class of 1933 from their graduation through 1940. It was a National Book Award finalist. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Len Joy
A fine portrayal of a period and a class of society with a penetrating understanding.Published 2 months ago by melodiustunes
Read this book years ago and thought that I had really liked it so decided to read again. Now not liking it so much.Published 2 months ago by Mary
Only after finishing the book did I learn that not only is this book famous and critically acclaimed but also written over 50 years ago. Read morePublished 3 months ago by M. Dallas
Great story about young women in the '30s. I did get the characters mixed up at times because there are so many!Published 3 months ago by Lisa McDermott