The Group, Mary McCarthy ( paperback 2009, first published 1963)


When first published in 1963, The Group was on a bestseller for almost two years. This ground-breaking novel, with its frank depiction of friendship, sex, and women's lives, was a revelation, and continues to inspire today. Mary McCarthy's most celebrated novel portrays the lives and aspirations of eight Vassar graduates.

'The group' meet in New York following graduation to attend the wedding of one of their members - and reconvene seven years later at her funeral. The women, fresh from college, vowed not to become stuffy and frightened like their parents, but to lead fulfilling, emancipated lives; who really achieved this - and what sacrifices and compromises had to be made?' McCarthy's characters confront many of the same issues as their modern counterparts: sex and contraception, career and marriage, love and lust, fidelity to one's husband versus loyalty to one's friends and the attempt to carve out a place for oneself unconstrained by the gender limitations of previous generations. Its continuing relevance is one of the book's most extraordinary attributes' ELIZABETH DAY

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