Mary McCarthy’s The Group is a book I’ve always meant to read but never managed to pick up. McCarthy’s name has never quite made it onto the essential American women writers hit list along with, say, Edith Wharton, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, and Eudora Welty. Perhaps this is because of McCarthy’s reputation as “a viperously clever but minor writer” who had too many “indiscreet affairs,” according to critic Larissa MacFarquhar. The Group, the story of the post-college decade of eight Vassar class of 1933 graduates, was published to abundant praise in 1963 and spent two years on the bestseller list. But it was also damned by Norman Podhoretz as “a trivial lady writer’s novel” and Norman Mailer famously pilloried it in The New York Review of Books.
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