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The Group

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  9,147 Ratings  ·  874 Reviews
Mary McCarthy's most celebrated novel portrays the lives of eight Vassar graduates, known simply to their classmates as "the group." An eclectic mix of personalities and upbringings, they meet a week after graduation to watch Kay Strong, the first of the group, be married. After the ceremony, the women begin their adult lives--traveling to Europe, tackling the world of nur ...more
Paperback, 492 pages
Published September 16th 1991 by Mariner Books (first published 1963)
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Nov 08, 2008 Wayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: both men and women
Recommended to Wayne by: the gossip of my aunts
I can remember my Dad's married sisters discussing this book (they were voracious readers always) in the 1960's. I was determined to read it and finally got hold of it in 1967 when I was studying to be a Catholic priest. My Student Director immediately confiscated it, so I knew its reputation was still going strong.(He didn't see my two volumes of Nietzsche I'd also bought with money my Mum had given me for my 20th birthday - I'd only bought them because I'd already seen him confiscate a Nietzs ...more
May 18, 2008 Michaela rated it really liked it
Take THAT Candace Bushnell. Every woman who moves to NYC after becoming obsessed with Sex and the City should be compelled to read this book. Even though this book takes place between the WWI and WWII -- they'd probably be shocked to discover that the more things change, the more they stay the same. If anything, this is probably the most realistic picture of the dynamics of female friendships and their impact on male/female relations that I've ever read.

Frank discussion of pre-marital sex, birth
Feb 04, 2010 Chelsea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by many, many things in The Group (my first book picked by a book club I joined in Brooklyn):
1. I was surprised I'd never heard of it. This is apparently common among my generation, though. Still, my mom was shocked- it's one of her favorite books, and I hadn't known.
2. In further embarrassment, I was surprised it wasn't written so long ago. I'd read a good few chapters thinking it was contemporary historical fiction.
3. I was then surprised by how much I liked it, given how much
Oct 27, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sarah by: Seth Lahn
This is pretty much my ideal novel. It's set in 1930s New York and follows the lives of several Vassar graduates. There has been only a few truly slow portions of this novel. I laughed aloud in several parts of the novel. All of the talk of New York high-society, 1930s politics, Freudian psychotherapy, and modernism generally was like candy to me. All of these characters were pretty darn interesting to me and I was sad when the novel ended.
Greg Brown
Mar 03, 2013 Greg Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After tearing through Mary McCarthy's The Group, I'm kinda shocked that it hasn't been inducted into the canon yet. The book is a stunning, scary look at gender relations in the 1930s, yet so searing that it's a shock to see it was written in the 1950s. Even Mad Men, written from the perspective of today's improvements, isn't as damning as McCarthy can be about the oppression of the time.

McCarthy gets quite a bit out of the tension between characters being comedically wrong and worryingly wrong.
Feb 16, 2015 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"I don't think sex is comical to the people taking part in it. It's comical to others."
-Mary McCarthy, on the Jack Paar Show 1963

It is easy to overlook McCarthy's wit because she has so loaded up this novel with a lifetime of observations on the kind of women she turned out not to be. There is plenty of T.S. Eliot's "The women come and go, talking of Michelangelo" in these sketches of Vassar girls, as they discuss Cézanne, O'Keefe, and read Clive Bell, Rog
Larry Bassett
Apr 14, 2012 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book has a reputation. Some found it shocking when it was published in 1963. “The Group” is eight Vassar women from the class of 1933. That is a period of time with which most of us have no personal experience. It was prohibition and a time of gangsters if our movies are telling the truth. Nine gangster films were released in 1930, 26 in 1931, 28 in 1932, and 15 in 1933. In 1933 FDR was inaugurated President and the New Deal began, Adolph Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, the Dow ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 13, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books (Memoirs)
The 1963 novel that inspired Candance Bushnell (born 1958) to write Sex and the City. Yes, Sex and the City was first a book before it became a long-running HBO miniseries (1998-2004). Then the two movies followed in 2008 and 2010.

The year was 1933 and eight ladies have just graduated from Vassar College, an exclusive-for-women (then) university in Poughkeepsie, New York. The novel spans a period of 10 years from that graduation to the start of WWII. The ladies are friends to each other and they
Christine Boyer
Aug 15, 2011 Christine Boyer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women 65+ might enjoy the nostalgia?
Recommended to Christine by: No one
You know when you're in the middle of a good book and you have to put it down, you still think about the characters and the story? Well, that was NOT the case with this book! I never connected and never felt anything about it. Apparently, this book first came out in 1954 & 1963 and I think the reason it was popular was because it had very taboo content - at least for the 1950's. I could see young girls back then giggling and hiding their copies of it. Other than that, it's filled with flaws. ...more
Oct 26, 2009 Catherine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, mainstream-us
I adored this book. It's witty, intelligent, and droll; the prose is light and incredibly clever; the social commentary is absolutely scathing.

Published in 1963, but set in the 1930s, The Group follows the fortunes of eight classmates from Vassar's graduating class of 1933. As she tells their intertwined stories McCarthy pokes fun at, analyzes, and explores their ideas about sex and sexuality, birth control, mental illness, marriage, divorce, childbirth, nursing, raising children, observing soci
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
Move over Candace Bushnell, Mary McCarthy's The Group appeared in 1963. As Sex and the City, The Group finds eight young Vassar women looking for love and careers in New York City. But what makes this novel different from Sex and the City is that The Group is set during the 1930's when women didn't discuss birth control, were promiscuous, were openly Lesbians, or career women.

The novel opens after "the group" graduates for Kay's wedding, an unusual one at that to their elite standards. But that
Mar 26, 2015 Cheryl rated it liked it
The book follows the lives of 8 Vassar grads from 1933 to 1940. Eight seemed too much, because many of the characters weren't fully developed. I only felt I got to know 3 or 4 of them to any extent. Most of the characters were pretty superficial, making it hard to like them. (I felt sorry for Kay, but I can't really say I liked her.) The plot wasn't that linear. It felt like a series of sketches. The book was very frank about sexuality, describing some sex scenes in great detail. However, it fel ...more
I truly loved reading Mary McCarthy’s best known work, THE GROUP. THE GROUP follows the lives of eight Vassar graduates, class of ’33, as they encounter adulthood. The women, while divergent in personality, are essentially upper middle class women with one similar stain: they all wish to live a modern life, different from the lives of their mothers and fathers. The novel, however, centers around Kay Strong, the vibrant leader of the group and is artfully bookended with Kay’s wedding and funeral ...more
Jul 31, 2010 Caitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Reading this book is like drinking a very dry gin martini (shaken, not stirred). Closely observed, carefully described, always acerbic - this was a real pleasure.

I remember skimming through this at my Seattle grandmother's house when I was in high school. At that point I was mostly shocked that someone had written so frankly about sex during the 1930's ("They had SEX in the 1930's? Really?") - teenagers are always a bit surprised to discover a whole world out there that is outside of their own e
Jan 01, 2015 Mia rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
If this book were about men, it'd probably be considered a Great American Novel.
helen the bookowl
A video review will be up on my YouTube channel 'Helene Jeppesen' on January 7th :)
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Aug 10, 2009 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-s-fiction
It’s important to know that the copyright on this book is 1954. Also, I should share that the story takes place during America’s Great Depression.

If you didn’t know these two facts, you might think this is just another book of contemporary women’s fiction.

The Group is the story of seven college friends and what happens to them over a ten year period. (See what I told you…Does that sound like a contemporary women’s fiction novel, or what?)

But this book was much, much better than any contemporar
Jan 30, 2016 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My 5-Question Review

Share a one sentence synopsis, please?
While the Great Depression roars on, eight women graduate college and navigate career, marriage, sex, sexual assault, infidelity, homosexuality, birth control, fertility, breast-feeding, child rearing, and masculine control proving that not a whole lot has changed in nearly a century.

What did you like?
I really enjoyed the style of narration. It was like being a fly on the wall for snippets of these women’s lives. The book was a long one a
Jan 10, 2010 Trin rated it liked it
An impressive book, but not one that I particularly enjoyed. McCarthy somewhat sporadically follows the lives of a bunch of Vassar graduates as they make bad choices, take up with nasty men, and are generally just as nasty to each other and everyone else. I really didn’t like anyone in this book. They are all products of their time, to be sure—racist, classist, sexist. Their attitudes are probably accurate. But man, it was unpleasant spending 500 pages in their heads. It made it very hard to sym ...more
Mar 25, 2008 Jaclyn rated it really liked it
Mary McCarthy's "The Group" is both a story of friendship and an exploration of the social mores among the "privileged" in Prohibition-era America. The book explores the lives of a group of seven Vassar graduates, who had "grouped together" in a college dormitory and whose lives occasionally intersected throughout the story. The girls come and go in New York; some of them remain close and some drift apart as they leave Vassar behind and enter into love affairs, careers, marriage and motherhood. ...more
Sep 30, 2009 Iris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
On "Mad Men," Betty Draper took a lazy afternoon bath while leaning out of the tub to flip the pages of "The Group" which lay propped open on her bathmat. The eight main characters in the novel had extraordinary intellects but small means to exercise them in 1930s New York. Betty had an Anthropology degree and total disinterest in motherhood; surely she felt that this book spoke to young women when it was published, in 1954.

Are you not much of a bathtime reader? This is absorbing enough to be a
Mar 15, 2011 Aneesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
The Great Gatsby meets Valley of the Dolls meets Emma.

After tearing through the surprise ending, I would have given this book five stars, if not for the nagging remembrance of some of the long, plodding chapters from the points of views of complete ninnies. It takes some patience to get through these, but it's worth it. McCarthy is a master of satire and social criticism, and writing from each girl's perspective she manages to show the real motives, feelings, intentions, delusions, and truths th
Jun 21, 2015 Alan rated it it was amazing
I read this book over forty years ago, living in a room Mary McCarthy may have stayed in, since she visited the house of her Vassar '33 classmate, Rhoda Wheeler (Sheehan). Rhoda, a German major in college, had seen Hitler after curfew in Berlin, in his car. Rhoda was my colleague at Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA, where she brought her other famous author friend to read several years in a row in the late 70s, Eiizabeth Bishop, back from Brazil and after her Brazilian friend died. He ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Satisfying Read

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. One realizes that social changes for women have been agonizingly slow and that human behavior might never evolve.

The story follows the lives of a group of Vassar women immediately after graduation. It begins with Kay's small wedding to the feckless and dangerously sociopathic Harald and spotlights portions of each woman's life - usually the even
May 20, 2013 Nicholas rated it it was amazing
LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I first read it about ten years ago and just re-read it for book club. And it's just as good the second time around. Following the lives of 8 members of the Vassar Class of '33 (as well as the horrible and memorable outlier Norine Schmittlap Blake [yes, really]), mostly in New York in the years after they graduate, the book is really funny at times (and nasty, too!) and just so good at capturing all kinds of changes in the lives of women in the 1930s, albeit white, WASPy, privi ...more
May 04, 2015 Sophia rated it really liked it
I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a novel so much. In its telling of the lives of a group of young women in 1930s New York, The Group kept me engaged, sympathetic, entertained and moved throughout. McCarthy really cleverly structures her novel, moving in and out of the lives of the very different women and examining them from different angles and at different distances. I wish writers did this more often; it was so refreshing to be taken in and out of these women's lives and learn to thin ...more
Tristan Robin Blakeman
Sardonic, sarcastic, bitter, amusing, tragic and insightful, Ms. McCarthy's novel is as powerful - and entertaining - as it was when it was published in 1963.

It is the story of - well - a group of eight young women who roomed and graduated together from Vassar. The book follows them from graduation into their adult lives. A mixed bag of types, there are the wealthy and the impoverished, the artistic and the mundane, the honest and the deceitful.

Although it reads like a (very good!) entertaining
Ms. B
Dec 29, 2010 Ms. B rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, fiction, 2010, classic
A little part soap + some social commentary + the disillusionment of finishing college in the early 1930s = this book

An interesting read about how the more things change, the more they stay the same. The story follows the lives of a group of women in the 1930s who recently graduated from Vasser College. Life is not easy. Reality and what the women envisioned for themselves are two entirely different things.
Oct 07, 2013 Ruby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: here, 2015
joop ter heul, but all grown up. this book is as hard as a diamond; that is both its strength and its weakness, I suppose.
Aug 11, 2011 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I confess that I vaguely remember ever hearing about The Group by Mary McCarthy when I was growing up. I say this, because I got my love of reading from perusing my mother's bookshelves. I can't remember if I ever saw it there, but I never thought of it again until I saw recently a review of it in The Guardian (UK newspaper) for a re-release. It sounded interesting from what the article said and since I liked The Women's Room by Marilyn French, I decided to give this book a read. I'm glad I did. ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Group by Mary McCarthy (1963) 3 17 Nov 25, 2015 07:33AM  
Classic Trash: The Group: Finished (Spoilers) 11 15 Apr 23, 2015 06:29AM  
Classic Trash: Slate Audio Book Club does The Group 2 6 Apr 18, 2015 04:27PM  
Classic Trash: The Group: In Progress (No Spoilers) 13 9 Apr 07, 2015 09:59AM  
500 Great Books B...: The Group - Mary McCarthy 1 13 Jul 15, 2014 08:50PM  
The Group Screening 12/3/09 in NYC 1 34 Nov 30, 2009 11:34AM  
  • What She Saw...
  • Dear Diary
  • How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well
  • Alien vs. Predator
  • My Misspent Youth: Essays
  • The Rachel Papers
  • The Collected Poems
  • Quicksand and Passing
  • Lucy
  • Actual Air
  • I Love Dick
  • The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business/The Manticore/World of Wonders
  • The Best of Everything
  • How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
  • How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Simple Recipes Anyone Can Cook
  • The Collected Poems
  • My Life As Author And Editor
  • Selected Letters, 1913-1965
Mary McCarthy (1912–1989) was an American literary critic and author of more than two dozen books including the 1963 New York Times bestseller The Group. Born in Seattle, McCarthy studied at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and graduated in 1933. After moving to New York City, McCarthy became known for her incisive writing as a contributor to publications such as the Nation, the New Repub ...more
More about Mary McCarthy...

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“One of the big features of living alone was that you could talk to yourself all you wanted and address imaginary audiences, running the gamut of emotion.” 8 likes
“I understand what you are feeling,” he said. “As Socrates showed, love cannot be anything else but the love of the good. But to find the good is very rare. That is why love is rare, in spite of what people think. It happens to one in a thousand, and to that one it is a revelation. No wonder he cannot communicate with the other nine hundred and ninety-nine.” 7 likes
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