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Monday, July 11, 2011

Review Mary McCarthy - The Group

The story of seven women from Vassar who graduated in 1933 is told in flashback as well as going forward of the transformation of their lives from college students to young women of different types and to the amazement of all, the different ways in which each person turned out to be. The surprising bit was the attitude of the women themselves towards each other despite their being friends and college mates for years.

There is a lot to be depressed about and it took me quite a while to read the book through. There is disillusionment in spades, hypocricy and what I felt was very sad " the attitude of what will people say" was paramount for almost all of them - it was very important to maintain appearances, to have the same standards of their mothers and grandmothers, to follow tradition blindly irrespective of whether good or bad and not to take informed decisions but to blindly follow the herd was horrible to read!

The women feel that their education is a drawback - that life is meant to be one of domestic bliss on the same scale as enjoyed/hated by their mothers but it is a "woman's lot" and hence has to be tolerated. I found this very difficult to imagine/accept and read about. So many difficult subjects handled here, premarital sex, birth control, the stigma attached to it if one is a single woman, motherhood, parenting skills and even whether breast or bottle is best is a battle in the book.

The book was not against the education of women but seemed to emphasize in a subtle way that 1930's was not about the emancipation of women whatever education may be offered to them. They were expected to be educated and then to get married well. This was disappointing.

An interesting book but one I had to pursue seriously to get to the authors' point of view.


  1. I have meant to read this book for years. Thanks for giving your thoughts about it. Maybe I'll get to it this year.

  2. Too much sadness and other things I think, so not for me.

    But you made it through :)

  3. I bought this one after JoAnn (lakeside Musing) blogged about it. Glad u had a chance to read it.

  4. I think that in some ways it could be an accurate portrayal of the attitudes of a lot of women. I know some girls right now who plan on going to college, but their whole goal in life is to get married and have babies.

    But all that aside, it does sound like the book is a downer.

  5. I remember reading this book back in college and finding it very intriguing.

  6. Good, honest review. I've been debating whether I want to read this one or not!

  7. I have the 1963 edition on my bookshelf (it was my mother's copy, I read this a long time ago but found it hard to get through. Like you I thought it was rather depressing and I could never figure out if the author was mocking women's ambitions of family or writing a warning against women wanting more.

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out