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The Group (Harvest Book) Paperback – Bargain Price, September 16, 1991
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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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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
I saw the film when I was a teenager and wanted more information on the characters so I got a paperback and dog eared it to death. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Pamela S. Simone
Book started slow, but give it a chance interesting book with insights into a time that was not that long agoPublished 23 days ago by Avid Reader
this book had too many story lines and it just stopped it did not have a good ending.Published 27 days ago by deenagail29
I first read this book in 1968 after my junior year of college. Although the novel was set in the 1930s, I could relate to the well-developed characters, especially Polly. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Judy Baran
Hated it. I always finish a book when I start one, but this one I can't make myself finish it.Published 1 month ago by PATRICIA THOMPSON
Hadn't read this since high school, and that's been a long time. Was glad that I reread it! Would recommend it.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Stories about female friendships and how they grow and change over time and through life experiences are catnip to me. Read morePublished 2 months ago by 500 Books
Goes through the times after college of each of these women, who they married or did not marry, and how they raised their kids. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Michel holtzman