The Group
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The Group

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  4,641 ratings  ·  565 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 1954)
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Wayne
Feb 04, 2011 Wayne rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Michaela
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...more
Chelsea
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...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 21, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Sarah
Oct 28, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
Larry Bassett
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
Keirstan
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
Greg Brown
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....more
Catherine
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...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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...more
Christine Boyer
Aug 15, 2011 Christine Boyer rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
Caitlin
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...more
Trin
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
Iris
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...more
Ann
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
Nick
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
Jon Stout
Written at least a generation before my time, and from the point of view of women, The Group portrays struggles that every generation faces after graduating from college, though they are resolved with the distinctive flavor of each generation. The book starts with a wedding and ends with a funeral, and in each case there is the search for just the right way of handling the occasion, not too formal and not too Bohemian, with second-guessing from everyone. How will the parents be involved? Is the...more
Jaclyn
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
Elise
"The Group" had been on my list for awhile, and when I saw it for two bucks at a used bookstore in Kingston, NY, this summer, I went for it, and not without having a little conversation about Mary McCarthy with the old shopkeeper (he was trying to recall the name of the woman with whom McCarthy had had a big feud via published opinion articles, and it didn't come to him by the time I left, so if you have any leads...).

It took me awhile to get into "The Group," because a lot of the story, about a...more
Suzi
This book cam recommended by one of those rare people, someone whose opinions about books I trust. It sat on my bookshelf waiting for a holiday, somehow I felt it was holiday reading. As I began it, on a beach in Cuba, I was thoroughly disappointed. The characters were easy enough to like, hate and associate with but it seemed so banal to me. I carried on, not having enugh books with me to give up reading one and somewhere, suddenly realised that I was completely gripped. I wanted to read about...more
Carmen
I had never heard of this book before, and I have to confess I only picked it up because I read part of the introduction Candace Bushnell wrote. I am happy I did, since I was fascinated by this novel. At the very beginning I thought it was just going to be one of those books that follow women lives after they graduate, and how they struggle to find someone to marry, get pregnant and start a family. As I kept on reading I found that it is more than just the typical chick-lit.

What impressed me th...more
Vern
Mary McCarthy wrote a book about the “real” issues women have when they graduate college and begin to start careers and families. The story was so engaging that I felt a part of The Group. Set in the 1930’s during the Great Depression with all seven members of The Group being upper and middle class white women.

The Group formed while the ladies were attending Vassar College. We begin our journey with them after their graduation from Vassar and in attendance at Kay and Harald’s wedding. Kay was t...more
Tanya
Spanning the course of several years, from 1933 to shortly before WWII, this novel tracks the lives of a group of young Vassar graduates. They are of varying degrees of wealth, some were scholarship students, while others had everything handed to them on a golden platter. Each woman is painted by McCarthy with unflinching honesty, dissecting their thoughts and actions with an almost clinically anthropological precision. Budding sex lives, abusive relationships, career quandaries, loyalties and f...more
Sam Still Reading
Jan 02, 2012 Sam Still Reading rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Sex and the City
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: read a positive review
I can’t remember where I first heard about The Group. It was one of those things that I thought I’d remember to look for and then promptly forgot all about it. It wasn’t until I was exploring a bookshop on holidays that I saw this book, saw the ‘introduced by Candace Bushnell’ and remembered that I was told that this was a book I simply had to read. Because face it, after the mess that was Sex and the City 2, every woman of a certain age is looking for a replacement SATC, aren’t they?

It is somew...more
Kevin
Who knew this was so… explicit? What kind of reaction did this get in 1963? I don’t think I’ve read such explicit sex scenes in ages--not there's anything wrong with that! And frank (but very outdated) discussion of lesbianism. And communism and atheism. This must have been banned. But, after all the juicy bits, it was just another pot boiler about a group of college friends and their lives after graduation from 1933-40. It turns out that they really didn’t have that much in common, except they...more
Kat
Fantastic portrayal of young "priviledged" women in the 1930s. The group is 8 Vassar grads, whose lives are chronicled over about 10 years. Lots of fascinating issues: friendship, love, sex, mental illness, birth and care of infants, which seem totally insane (in labor one heroine is told to put on lipstick and rouge), women's roles vis a vis work and family and education which are clearly evolving. It is written with very few paragraph breaks and the dialogue is mostly reported speech, plus the...more
Aneesa
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...more
George Ilsley
An amazing work. The writing at times felt at times completely contemporary (discussion of the politics of birth control, for example). Hard to follow in places, since the narrative lingered so long on one story lines I forgot the others. However, it sweeps along more at the end, and McCarthy weaves the lines together, using one story line to inform us about another.

Even in the places where the text felt dated (discussion of the different facets of socialism/communism) the book was interesting....more
Carol
Have wanted to read this book for years, and finally did. This reading definitely has me interested in reading more of Mary McCarthy's work. The book begins in 1933, when the country was reeling from the Depression. These recent Vassar graduates are experiencing this event in various ways--changes of lifestyle for some, and for others, very little changes since their wealth and status are virtually untouched. Some members of "the group" are from wealthy East Coast families, while others are from...more
Ms. B
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.
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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
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“If [she] had come to prefer the company of odd ducks, it was possibly because they had no conception of oddity, or rather, they thought you were odd if you weren't.” 1 likes
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