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3.9 out of 5 stars47
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 4 July 2010
I'm quite surprised at the negative comments in the reviews for this book. I haven't even finished it yet but feel compelled to write a review. I am loving this book - it is a real gem. The themes it covers: sex, marriage, relationships, motherhood, breastfeeding, mental health, and friendships are as relevant today as they must have been 80 years ago. I only wish I'd found this book when I was in my early twenties. I have found this book hard to put down and I haven't got to the end yet. It isn't a light read (and I think the references to Sex And The City a little misleading - there are similarities - a bunch of young women coping with life and men in New York) but I am thoroughly enjoying this book and hope to read it again one day.
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on 24 December 2015
This brilliant novel was written in the fifties, and it's about the lives of a group of university-educated American women in the 1930s. And yet, Mary McCarthy's writing is so modern that 'The Group', unlike many so-called classics, is still an absolute joy to read today. One of the reasons for this is the fact that many of the subjects McCarthy touches continue to be relevant in the 21st century. For example, the power struggle in relationships; the intricate motives behind our choice of life/love partners; how we actually define friendship; parenthood; the importance of work for personal life. And it confirmed something I'd always suspected: the so-called sexual revolution happened decades before the hippies claimed to have invented it! This is a really interesting book, social commentary at its best. I only wish I had read it when I was young - it kind of fills you with courage and determination.

The other reason why the novel stands the test of time is the superb writing. The tone is smart and witty, the language tightly clipped. Very stylish but utterly unflinching. Not a flowery or sentimental word in sight, nothing facile, no pandering of any kind. The dialogues are very realistic - again, surprisingly modern - and overall the excellent Mary McCarthy makes the reader put a bit of work into it, which I like. It's such a shame that the author wrote so little; she was good enough to be one of America's greatest. (For my money, she is anyway.)

This formidable novel has been dubbed 'The original Sex & the City' and I think that's a disgraceful comparison. Please. This is a hundred times better than SATC. 'The Group' is a novel by a woman, about women, and yet, thankfully, there's nothing "chick lit" about it. Pure intellectual stimulation; I dare say it will appeal equally to both genders.
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on 6 October 2011
The writing feels surprisingly modern. Made me think of Ayn Rand and Edith Wharton in a way. I love the way Mary McCarthy allows her characters time to talk and think, and their different perspectives. But still not a word too much. Can't wait to read more of her books.
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on 5 September 1999
The Group, by Mary McCarthy
The Group is the best-known of all novels written by Mary McCarthy. This glamorous American intellectual has Catholic, Jewish and Protestant origins, which inspired her recollection of childhood Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. She was married to the famous critic Edmund Wilson, and played an outstanding role in the jet-set of Letters in the United States at the time. The Group is a novel which is bound to be of interest mainly to women readers. It tells the story of 8 girls who start life after university, in 1933. However, it doesn't turn out to be outdated at all. These 8 women are all very different. They all studied at Vassar, but their families are not all that rich, especially because of the Depression, a topic very much discussed by most of the characters, who don't agree completely with Roosevelt policies. These girls differ also in personality, and therefore they settle down in very different jobs and marriages. Mary McCarthy covers their lives until 1940, and this allows her to cover as well a very wide range of issues: contraception, the theoretical points in the upbringing of children, the loss of virginity, the hassle of housework and early married life, loneliness, lesbianism, adultery... We even get a very funny and ironical picture of a young woman writer as she tries to make her way through the obstacles of the editorial world... It seems that Mary McCarthy has chosen fragmentary structure (each chapter is centred on one of the girls) and multiple character with the intention to show all the different aspects of the lives of contemporary women. Thus, what we get is not really several particular women, but the image of the new Woman. However, the novel is very entertaining and it achieves its objective. Despite being influenced by experimentalist trends in its multiple character and fragmentary structure, it is narrated in a clear realistic style, which makes it very readable. Its structure is also perfect: it starts with Kay's wedding, and she is also the protagonist of the last event. In this her friends attempt a sort of feminist revenge which proves their love of Kay. But that is all for the reader to discover.
(Laura Puente Martín)
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on 11 May 2010
I have picked this up more than once and considered reading it - even started it on one occasion. I gave up -but this time, because it was a book group suggestion, I stuck with it. It is not an easy read, but it is rewarding. I am so glad I persevered, and now understand why it's stood the test of time and considered an important book.
I wouldn't call it a feminist book. It's about a group of Vassar educated women of the 1930s, and the society they inhabited and how the issues of those days affected their lives. Believe me, those issues resonate today, and probably did for our mothers, and probably will for our daughters- particularly those about child rearing and feeding.
Some of the characters I found tedious and annoying, but I think they were bravely meant to be. Most were moving and some were uplifting and funny. This book is a complex, intricate, many shaded work of verbal tapestry, and if you read it I wonder which character will appeal to you most and why. That question was so entertainingly answered at our book group.
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on 9 August 2010
When I read this book, when I was sixteen, in the sixties it made a lasting impression. It is a book I have intended to reread over the years. The reread did not disappoint. The characters are vivid, the setting is now significantly historical. It reminds me of Jane Austen in 1930s USA.
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on 6 September 2012
It started a little slowly but picked up pace in the second chapter. I liked how the author allowed us a first person narrative and then we got to see the woman from her friends perspective. I for one loved the details regarding contraception, breast feeding and child rearing, it gave the novel the feeling of a social history lesson too. The plot didn't move in predictable direction either which I liked.
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on 2 June 2002
I read Mary mCarthy's 'The Group' this winter and I could not put it down. The book is about a group of girls in the 1930's and 1940's in New York. The great thing about this book is the fact that it also intertwines historical events into the storyline like the beginning of WO 2 and communism. What is even better is that it also shows that women have had to struggle to become what they have become today.Every member of the group deals differently with the problems they had as women. Difficult subjects like sexuality,birth control, homosexuality ,marriage,domestic violence and having babies are written about in a very realistic yet not depressing way. The story is built up beautifully leaving you wondering and making you feel connected with the women.This is a book I heartedly recommend for everybody to read.
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on 27 October 2010
This book is set in a time period that most people reading this review would not recall well, but once you read it, despite its inherent difficulties (too many main characters to remember from one reading period to the other, detailed political events that bear little significance in our own time), you will realise that every modern woman should read this book. A woman's lot has changed very little since the writing of this book, despite the fact that society and technology have progressed immensely since it was written. Every woman will relate to at least one of those eight women with what Candace Bushnell describes as a flawed personality.
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on 31 May 2013
Mary McCarthy tells the story of this group of young women graduating from university in 1930s America by each character narrating her own chapter. We hear one voice after another, some more reliable observers than others, but each a fully formed and completely credible personality. We follow them to the early days of WWII. Some come through the years with their ideals intact, others are bruised by the transition from university to adult independence. It's a gripping read.
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