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The Group: A Novel (Harvest Book) Kindle Edition
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“A witty, moving, instructive and wise novel—a gem of American social history as well as very good fiction.” —The Nation
“An admirable piece of fiction and the best book [McCarthy] has written.” —Saturday Review
About the Author
- ASIN : B00DZEJRDE
- Publisher : Open Road Media (August 6, 2013)
- Publication date : August 6, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 5448 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 494 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #147,385 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Compared to recent books, it may seem tame to younger readers but is still a glimpse into our cultural past.
Some of the topics are still relevant today, particularly the pressure on women to excel intellectually and academically yet still fulfill traditional roles (particularly the parents). There is still an on-going debate on being the submissive wife (Priss) and being assertive and not allowing one's self to be manipulated into roles (Priss and Polly). With all the social awareness, there still exists a double standard when women explore their sexuality (Kay and Dotty). Spousal abuse (Kay) is still a fact of life for many women. Substance abuse (Harald) is still a societal problem.
While some of the characters were a bit uncomfortable with Lakey's partner, she was still a part of the group with the others accepting Lakey as is. This was a liberal attitude at the time the book was first published and at the time the film was made.
The book goes into more detail with some of the characters that were downplayed in the film.
It also addressed issues of class that still exist today. The women from the upper classes had more leeway with their actions in some respects than the women from middle or working class backgrounds (Noreen). Their social standing made them less vulnerable to being stigmatized than the middle and lower classes.
While it is not a potboiler by today's standards, it provides a look in a time when the country was going through major social changes. It begins with just after the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression through the beginning of World War II and the book captures that time.
I think it fair to say that THE GROUP embodies some of the feminist outlook of THE FEMINIST MYSTIQUE and the smart-woman's viewpoint in novel form of THE BELL JAR (all three books were first published in 1963 but THE BELL JAR was not available to American readers until 1967). What is difficult to convey is McCarthy's polished writing, which slips in and out of satire (and sometimes, when her characters speak with internal monologue, are just 'unreliable' enough in their narration that we reader know what's going on better than the narrator does). "Sardonic" is often the word used to describe McCarthy's writing in this book, and while it is crisp (sometimes to the point of being knife-like), it is not really a particular send-up or lampoon of any Depression-era class or of the Thirties themselves.
I was astonished that one reviewer here opined that the reader "MUST be scholarly and well finished in the all of the arts, and several foreign languages, to understand the subtleties." Gentle reader, I counted three instances of French: "crepe de chine" to describe a dress collar, "faiblesse" which means weakness, and "mauvaise fille" (bad girl). Other than a line of Dante one character's father spouts, that is it for foreign languages. Considering that McCarthy could have inflicted much worse on us, including Yiddish and German, we got off easily. She wanted this book to be read, and it was.
At times, the troubles faced by these women, the deteriorating economy, parental calls to "come home" (and abandon NYC) and the vagaries of spousal moods, bottle-feeding and child-rearing, did seem to have a distinct "Thirties" cast. This is, after all, social history in the form of a novel, and contemporary politics as well as the New Deal's "alphabet soup" agencies are discussed. But then I run across a passage like this where Priss muses about her physician husband Sloan and wonder if things have really changed that much at all: "There was a side of Sloan, she had decided, that she mistrusted, a side that she summed up by saying he was a Republican. Up to now this had not mattered; most men she knew were Republicans--it was almost part of being a man. But she did not like the idea of a Republican controlling the destiny of a helpless baby..."
THE GROUP has sold three million copies with more in store. In the Sixties, writers of substance often wrote substantial novels that also became very popular. I recommend THE GROUP.
a couple of married classmates sitting on a park bench with their infants discuss how they can think circles around their husbands.
another classmate, an ingenue, loses her virginity, described in graphic detail, to a philanderer so knowledgeable and arrogant as to give advice on birth control devices before dictating the terms on which he would ever choose to see her again.
and there’s the temp employee for a sympathetic book publisher. the publisher becomes involved with one of her classmates, a relationship complicated by his inability to leave his wife from whom he’s separated.
a novel of domesticity, opening with a wedding reception, in later chapters take place the argued benefits of breast feeding over bottle feeding, the discussion of a contraceptive device, and plenty of recipes to fill a small cookbook. a novel also of small tragedies, and the larger tragedy of the power men have and women lack. conversations of cultural topics of the day, psychoanalysis and communism provide solutions for dissatisfaction.
it’s no surprise this novel was a best-seller in 1963. curiously, an earlier copyright is shown as 1954, of which i find no critical reviews.
Top reviews from other countries
I recently saw the film "The Greatest Showman" which I loved. However, I was a little critical as most of the women wore false eyelashes and the song which Jenny Lin sings whilst absolutely fantastic is nothing like a song she would have sung in those days. My point is this; whilst I felt that was not realistic of the time, this book is realistic, and I struggled with it! Set in the 1930s with the language of the time felt like wading through so many unfamiliar words, I thought I would never finish the book.
Seen as the "Sex and the City" of it's time and indeed with a forward in my copy by Candace Bushell the book is certainly very liberal for both the time it is set in and the era it was published in being 1963.
When the book begins all the characters are all produced at once and I felt I would never remember who they all were (and I didn't most of the time). Then the book takes one or two of the characters to focus on in each chapter through the 1930s and ending at the time of the 2nd world war. Different aspects of each of their lives are written about from marriage, birth, motherhood, affairs of the heart and ageing parents.
It was a journey through American social history for me, although these ladies are all ex Vassar (which is very laboured throughout) and from "society" so not a true cross section of history. However, I was a little shocked at some of the things described - especially towards the end of the book regarding a convalescence stay, which I won't spoil for you.
At the beginning of the book they talk about marketing, and it was only after a couple of references when they talk about going to the market, that I realised this is the term for shopping at the market! To my 21st century eyes I had to re read passages like this as the meaning was so different. There is one part which covers a birth. I was bemused that the Doctor tells the patient to put on fresh lipstick and powder and to stop screaming!!!!!
As I mentioned the book was written in 1963 and yet it feels like it was written in the 1930's. The author has really captured the nuances and speech of the time. I think it deserves five stars both for the writing and capturing a part of history - this is the closest thing to a time machine you could wish for!