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The Group

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  14,145 ratings  ·  1,382 reviews
Mary McCarthy's most celebrated novel follows 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 get married. After the ceremony, the women begin their adult lives: traveling to Europe, tackling the worlds of nursing and publishing, and ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 16th 1991 by Mariner Books (first published 1963)
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Wayne Lakey is the only Lesbian in the Group. Surely THAT is enough.
Like most non-Heterosexuals, she doesn't wait for Permission before living out her Power…more
Lakey is the only Lesbian in the Group. Surely THAT is enough.
Like most non-Heterosexuals, she doesn't wait for Permission before living out her Powerhouse of Love and Lust...she's "Doin' What Comes Naturally". And so it has always been, since before and after the Evolution of the Human Species...what may be regarded as Quirks of Nature have always been around, doing what they do BEST...being Themselves. Mary McCarthy wasn't going to leave a hole in her Opus Magnus by omitting Her Lakey !! She wanted the Complete Spectrum of Womankind. If she was writing it today, there would be a Gender Bender in there too, and not apologising or asking permission either, I have No Doubt .
And it is Lakey in the end who socks it to the Meanest Man in the book.
On behalf of ALL her friends. She becomes the Spokesperson and Spokeswoman. No accident when you have MM at the wheel.
Hope this helps, Vince.
Cheers from Wayne, Sydney,Australia.(less)
Sandra Alicja The answer is "explicit" content of sexual nature.
McCarthy writes about the lives of 20somethings in the 1930 in what has been described by some "clin…more
The answer is "explicit" content of sexual nature.
McCarthy writes about the lives of 20somethings in the 1930 in what has been described by some "clinical detail". She touches upon most subjects that were, and actually still are, of real significance to young women including sex. The second chapter in the book is about one of the characters losing her virginity in what we would now call a one night stand. While McCarthy does describe the characters experience in some detail it is nowhere near pornographic nature. My guess is that alone the fact that a girl could find pleasure while losing her virginity to a handsome man who is no "marriage material", was enough for some censors to ban the book.
By the way the book was also banned in Italy and Ireland.(less)

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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  14,145 ratings  ·  1,382 reviews

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Nov 08, 2008 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
Petra is slightly on hiatus doing bookshop work
I read this book when I was really young, maybe 12. I just saw a review on it, it said,
"The book was very frank about sexuality, describing some sex scenes in great detail. However, it felt more "clinical", like a sex ed text than erotic. "

Not to me! it was HOT and very inspirational. Masturbation, the First Time, and Girls who like other Girls, what's clinical about that? It was my favourite secret book. That is, until I found my father's The Kama Sutra / The Perfumed Garden drying in the air
Oct 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I do it fast and simple: A charade of facts, events, places and characters... but nothing that has kidnapped me or anythin significant that has remained in my heart.
Yes, this book slipped away from me with absolutely nothing.... I immediately say that there by there, the girls of Vassar College in question live their dramas, successes and broken destinies... but the whole thing is written ( my personal opinion) with total emotional strangeness by McCarthy; There are so many described things and
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Fairly near the start this book had waaay too much detail about 1930's contraception for my tastes - it went on for pages. Yes, I should be more sympathetic - this chapter also evoked the feelings of confused and furtive shame about sexual matters that I remember from the 70's.

But the further into this groundbreaking novel I got, the more absorbed I became. I especially like the way The Group moved in and out of each others lives - some of the characters disappear for chapters and chapters. This
Greg Brown
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
Oct 27, 2008 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. ...more
Christine Boyer
Aug 15, 2011 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. No ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
There's this story Laura Jacobs recounts in her definitive essay about this book:
“I used to keep seventy-five dollars of mad money in a book. We had The Group on the shelf in our guest room and I thought, I’ll remember where it is if I put it in there. Every guest we had would come down the next morning and say, ‘Did you know you had money in that book?’ ”

She should have stashed it in Herzog, right? No one would ever have found it. This book, on the other hand, which gets almost immediately to a
This is for me an absolute 5 stars. The manner in which the characterisation of the different persons comes forward is masterful. Each person is descriped in a very detailed, sometimes sugggestive manner. Also the fact how the total store is interwoven is very good done. You learn about failed ambition in the thirties, not because the women are incapable, but because marriage prohibits them to develop themselves. You regularly have to laugh with what the persons think, or say or how they handle. ...more
Feb 16, 2015 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
Mar 26, 2015 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
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-life
A whole bunch of ladies graduate from Vassar in 1933. And then the men in their lives make them miserable. The end.

But, okay, just to make sure I'm not exaggerating, I'll add some details...

Kay: Kay's husband makes her miserable
Norine: Kay's husband makes her miserable
Dottie: Kay's husband's roommate makes her miserable
Prissy: Prissy's husband makes her miserable because he thinks he knows everything about motherhood.
Polly: Polly's father makes her miserable, and then she has an affair that make
Larry Bassett
Apr 14, 2012 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
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mary McCarthy's brainchild spans seven years in the lives of eight Vassar graduates of varying means and intellectual candle power, from their graduation in 1933 and their settling in New York City, to the eve of American involvement in World War Two. It is much to Mary McCarthy's credit, I think, that the book with its large cast does not pretend to have "the last word" about how women should cope with the Depression and its economic dislocations, with men, or with life in general. The closest ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 13, 2009 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
Oct 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, united-states
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
Mar 15, 2011 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
Helene Jeppesen
A video review will be up on my YouTube channel 'Helene Jeppesen' on January 7th :) ...more
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, owned
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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Aug 10, 2009 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
T.D. Whittle
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Martha Duffy described how McCarthy's writing influenced American culture in Time Magazine: "She always thought of herself as old-fashioned ... but Mary McCarthy was incorrigibly modern and, in spite of herself, a celebrated pioneer to generations of young women. She opened the way by ignoring the constraints―and prerogatives―of gender. . . . McCarthy claimed for serious fiction the terrain of a woman's domestic strategies, her finances, her female friendships, her minute biological concerns. Ev ...more
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
Anna L
I don't know how to be charitable to this book. Not being familiar with the author, for the first 150 or so pages I was very confused at the old fashioned prose, thinking this was a modern take on the 1930s. Once I realized the author was contemporary to the events (and writing a thinly disguised memoir, at that) I was further upset at the lazy editing and horrendous lack of plot structure - why introduce 8 main characters, only to give a full story arc to one? And tease us with fully fleshed de ...more
George Ilsley
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing work. The writing at times felt completely contemporary (discussion of the politics of birth control, for example). It is also hard to follow in places, since the narrative lingered so long on one story line I almost 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 inter
It's an interesting read if you're curious about the evolution of women's fiction, since it clearly influenced Sex and the City and The First Wives Club, but as sheer entertainment it dates itself and has really odd pacing.

Dynamite ending, hit-or-miss characters, very tedious conversation about post-war birth control that lasted ten pages.

I don't know how I had never read Mary McCarthy's most famous novel. I have known about it for most of my adult life and always thought I would get to it someday. Well, now I am reading 1963, the year it stayed on the bestseller list for months and months, ending up as the #2 bestselling novel, and someday is here.

The group consists of eight women who formed an exclusive clique at Vassar College, rooming in four double rooms and spending most of their time together being smart and snarky. This i
Jul 31, 2010 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 10, 2010 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 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
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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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