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The Company of Women

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  296 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Raised by five intensely religious women and a charismatic, controversial priest, sheltered from the secular world, Felicitas Maria Taylor is intelligent, charming, and desperate for a taste of ordinary happiness. More freedom than she has ever imagined awaits her at Columbia University in the 1960s. There, Felicitas falls in love with the worst man for her -- with shatter ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 12th 1981 by Ballantine Books (first published 1980)
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Carol Storm
Feb 25, 2011 rated it did not like it


Nothing is more depressing than reading the New York Times Book Review. It’s just so smug, so orthodox. And at the same time so phony. Take Mary Gordon, for example. Just the other day Mary Gordon wrote a front page review praising the new novel by Louise Erdrich, the famous Native American author. Now I’ve got nothing against Louise Erdrich, but I’ve been reading the novels and essays of Mary Gordon for over thirty years. And by the time I finished reading the r

Elizabeth Quinn
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
SPOILER ALERT: This 1980 novel tells the story of Felicitas Taylor, whose widowed mother is among a group of New York City five women in the thrall of a conversative Roman Catholic priest named Father Cyprian. The women, all single or widowed, form the company of women who raise the young girl. Overseeing them is Cyprian, who left his order following the Vatican II liberalization and eventually retreats to the rural town in upstate New York where he was born and raised. The story opens in 1963, ...more
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having recently re-read (and liked very much) Mary Gordon’s Final Payments I decided to track down her next book, published a few later in 1980. Set in three separate time periods between 1963 and 1977, the book’s protagonist is a young girl named Felicitas who is being raised by her widowed mother, and her mother’s close-knit circle of friends, all of whom are feverishly devoted to an archly conservative priest whose dictatorial influence on them all verges on despotism. A father figure to Fel ...more
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-good-stuff
I love Mary Gordon. For me, her writing casts a spell. Plus she's also got that whole "What does it mean to be a Catholic woman" thing going on. Decades after Vatican II, that might not be as interesting as it once was, but I find it fascinating. Here, she duels with Catholicism in yet another way, landing one sharp blow after another through the stories of a group of women who never married for one reason or another, and most of whom remain faithful to the church. I'm still not sure how she man ...more
Patty Mccormick
Hmm. What can I say about this one. First off, I am not a catholic, so some of this was kind of lost on me. I found this book unusual. There is Father Cyprian with out a congregation. This makes him somewhat of a failure in my book, but he has a following of women who come to see him once a year. Seems weird to me. One of the women has a daughter, Felicitas. Felicitas goes away to college and begins doing all kinds of unspeakable things and loses her way. She gets pregnant, comes home and then h ...more
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Catholics, nostalgic for the 60s leftists, people who've had crappy priests/boyfriends
Ok, so I read this a while ago. And it's a trade paperback book. And something about it feels a little trashy and a little Judy Blume-ish. And it's about this old school Catholic family and this bizarro rigid priest and this girl who goes a little wild with her crappy leftist boyfriend, because it's the 60's and she's discovering herself but finding herself stuck in a new equally rigid paradigm.

I like it for all the wrong reasons, but I liked it. And it didn't feel like genre fiction at all and
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
This was not my kind of book. I thought since the main character was born around the same time I was born and grew up in the 1960's I could relate. But not so much.

Also, my maiden name is Mary Gordon, I thought I could relate, But not so much.
Raenette Palmer
Apr 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
What a boring book! I read it for a friend and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The writing is terrible. She uses the same phrases over and over again and I had a hard time keeping who the women were straight.
Jul 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Unrealistic, melodramatic junk. I only finished as a kind of penance. This was written 37 years ago by a "Catholic" writer. She was apparently wildly popular in 70-80's. She's written many many novels. Perhaps this was a particularly bad one? My favorite used book sale is at a nearby Catholic church, and that's where I picked this up. There was a Mary Cassatt picture on the cover, and I'm quite sure that's what attracted me to this gem.
I read reviews that painted this author as a racist and ant
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1980, this beautifully written novel by Mary Gordon is an empathetic and moving portrait of a group of women in thrall to a charismatic but conservative and despotic priest. The five women live in New York City and are close friends. All are either widowed or single, and only one of them, Charlotte, has a child. The narrative centres on this child, Felicitas, who is 14 when the story opens. She is an intelligent but socially awkward girl, out of step with modern America, and e ...more
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Felicitas is an odd child. Her mother and her mother's friends -- a group of women and an aging priest -- like to think that Felicitas's oddness is the product of her extraordinary intelligence, not her sheltered and strange upbringing (in the company of women, and one extremely intense old man.)

When we meet Felicitas at college age, her obedience and all her training to be fierce and asexual have failed her, and Gordon provides us with an exquisitely acute portrait of the douchey guy Felicitas
Felicity Gibson
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Company of Women by Mary Gordon
Read October 30th 2013

This is another one I found on my errant laptop.

There is an edge of bitterness on entering this story. It starts on a religious note and then evolves into a magical explanation of the relationships of a cluster of characters. The central character, at the beginning of the story is a teenager – a real voice. The narrative unfolds slowly and reluctantly. From the positive beginning, the entry of negative emotions is one of surprise. The rela
Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a story definitely rooted in its particular place and time – the 1960’s and its clash of cultures: formal and polite and rigid Catholicism meets the secular and intellectual fervor at the time of the Vietnam War. Felicitas is the daughter of Charlotte, god daughter and companion of Elizabeth, Mary Rose, Clare and Muriel; the man in all of their lives is Father Cyprian, an emotionally cold priest around whom they all revolve.

This story is grounded in a deep understanding of Roman Catholi
Susan Emmet
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although not raised Catholic, I had alot of Catholic friends. At St. Philip Neri Church in Centerport, NY, I used to sneak in with these friends and wish I could be forgiven my sins and say some Hail Marys. This was in the early 60s.
Learned about Mary Gordon from some other reading I'd done and so took TCOW off the shelf at the library. It'd been signed out in 1997 and now by me in 2013. There are burn marks on the pages in the 1977 end part of the book. Odd.
I liked this novel despite not unders
Mary Ann
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I almost cast this aside after the first section; I felt so angry, not so much on my own generation's behalf, but on that of the generation of my mother and aunts and many wonderful nuns I knew who were so stifled and oppressed in the authoritarian Church prior to Vatican II. (Of course, it's not over yet, folks.) But I stopped, took a breath, and thought about what I had read. The seeds are there in the first part for these marvelous women to flourish, each according to her own personality and ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hated the start of this book and initially thought I would give it only 2 stars. For me, it was too old fashioned and Catholic in flavor. Then I hit the middle part where the focus was on Felicitas' life and I began to think this book might turn out to be OK. However, I think the third part of this book is the best. It is short and is the musings of each of the main characters about their current life. The author speaks in each one's voice in such a way that each one takes on reality and fulln ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed rereading this story of an intellectually gifted girl who grows up in the company of five women (including her mother) and a priest without a parish. Set in the sixties and seventies, it uses a small canvas to show the great changes in society and in the Catholic Church that took place during those years. The characters are distinct and fully realized, the issues are important, and the prose used to discuss religious feeling is remarkable.
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
What a wonderful book. Loved the story, the characters are so real and believeable. It explains alot about the Catholic religion and friends in a very interesting way. Her writing is wonderful, did I say wonderful enough here. Now I have yet another favorite author. This was a library book, I liked it enough that I went to Barnes and Noble and used a gift card I had to purchase her (I think) latest book "Spending."
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Duidelijk geen boek voor mij. Thema's zijn katholicisme en vrouwen en als niet-gelovige man kom je al meteen op achterstand. Mogelijk is het boek ook wat gedateerd en daardoor nu minder urgent. Ik neig er echter naar om te denken dat dit gewoon niet zo'n goed boek is met weinig aansprekende personages van een nogal pretentieuze schrijfster.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
Intersting topic, but so hard to get through. It felt all over the place and so slow to start. It thought the second part was good, but the end left me disappointed. It might have been better for someone who was raised a Catholic in the time period the book takes place... 1950's/ 1960's. I had a hard time relating to it.
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating tale of tension between family and culture: the story of a young woman bridging the gap between the contemporary world of her peers and the eclectic community of relatives and nuns who raised her.
Barb Flory
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Extraordinary book. At first I didn't think I wanted to read it, but then - wham - she had me! The story of one priest, five women, and one girl growing up. Some lines I will never forget. She made me think of Marilynne Robinson. Deep and wonderful!
Jul 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Mary Gordon's other book I read, Final Payments, this was quite good; I like her development of the characters.
I don't know why this 1981 book has been on my bookshelves - in several different locations - and I never read it. Wonderful, thoughtful, provocative.
Five women's attachment to a Catholic priest. Must be the wrong book at the wrong time for me because I couldn't finish it.
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-college
One of my favorite stories.
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it

Another superb novel by Mary Gordon, this is about women and friendship and
the place of the church in some lives. So
beautifully written...
Feb 02, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to BoekenTrol by: Moem
From one of the book boxes that Moem sent to me. It certainly looks in teresting. It'll hang around here, untillI get to read it.
Wiley R
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: female-authors
This was super weird.
Marian Alexander
rated it liked it
Dec 18, 2012
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Mary Gordon was born in Far Rockaway, New York, to Anna Gagliano Gordon, an Italian-Irish Catholic mother, and David Gordon, a Jewish father who converted to Catholicism. While growing up, she attended Holy Name of Mary School in Valley Stream and for high school attended The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica, N.Y.. She is Catholic.

She received her A.B. from Barnard College in 1971, and her M.A. from
More about Mary Gordon...