Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Group - Mary McCarthy

Rating: 9.5/10

The Group is one of those unforgettable books that everyone needs to read, especially us women. Some might love it, some will hate it, but I doubt people can ignore this staggeringly realistic, if depressing look at a group of women and thereby, the society that they inhabit.

Set in the Great Depression and following the lives of a ‘group’ of eight Vassar graduates who plunge into the ‘real’ world, Mary McCarthy explores with admirable ease the issues that affect them; be it heart-break, love, marriage, sexuality, motherhood or a career.

My favourite thing about this book is the fact that at no point does McCarthy’s take on subjects confronting women, seem forced. It’s not like she has a check-list of things or problems to talk about, because she’s writing about women. Her look at their lives blends these important issues seamlessly and her writing is so vividly descriptive.

Descriptive, not in physical or material details, but more of a detailed emotional dissection which is so enjoyably written with subtle wit and sarcasm, that it’s so easy to read! This book is inherently feminist, no doubt, and must have been a revelation when it was first published.

Most of the men featured in the book are hopeless: sample an abusive, unfaithful husband or a cruel lover or a husband who uses his wife and child as the ‘guinea pig’ for his experiments as a pediatrician. Them and their condescending attitude towards women disgusted me incredibly.

Similarly, most of the women in the group are not very likable. They all have their flaws: some more flawed than the other. Also, this book isn’t as much about friendship as one might suppose it to be, considering it is about a group of women.  It’s more about how differently and distinctly each woman deals with the problems that confront her. The Group has a lot to say, with enough in it for women at different stages of their life.

I also think it's important for me to point out that this book is uncomfortable to read at times; awkward, depressing and cold too. But the sincerity and the inherent honesty with which McCarthy goes about this tale, is enough to definitely warrant a read.

P.S. My internet connection has been horrible so I haven't found time to comment or check any of your blogs. I'll do it first thing when my internet gets back to normal :)


Vaishnavi said...

Great review :) There is an introduction by Candace Bushnell I see, that is interesting. Well I love book like these and I think I will look for it this weekend!

Kim said...

Well, now I want to know if I'm in the group that loves it, or hates it! Love the cover and will have to look at it a little further. Thank you for this. (queen bee)

The Book Mole said...

Thanks for the review! I have just been reading about the interwar years (1920s and 30s) and it seems like there were issues unique to those years. Looks like this book may address a few of those issues.

JoAnn said...

I just purchased this book (even though I already have way too many waiting to be read) and want to scrap all my April reading plans and move it to the top of the pile! I think I'll really love it.

Veens said...

I will definitely get this for me :)
I know I won't want to read it now, but at a later stage, i would not miss it.
Great review, Kals - I sure do wish I could write like u do!

Kals said...

Vaishnavi - Thanks! :) Yep..I'm normally not a fan of Bushnell, but her introduction was crisp and elegant :)

Kim - :) It's definitely a must-read, I'd say! And yep..I totally love the cover.

The Book Mole - Absolutely. It deals with some important issues that were crucial at that period and are very relevant even today :)

JoAnn -I sure think you'll love it! :)

Veens - Thank you so much, Veens! Your compliment made my day. Plus, hello, you're a wonderfully sharp writer yourself :)

And yes..I wouldn't recommend it for you at this stage either, because it is uncomfortable and depressing. A couple of months later would be the best time to read it! :)

Paperback Reader said...

I'm delighted that you loved this too, Kals. I agree that it is a must-read for women as a socio-historical marker of how far (and not so far) our sex has come.

It is all the things that you mention: uncomfortable, frustrating, shocking, cold... but necessary, illuminating and engaging.

Kals said...

It was from your blog that I got to know about this book. I loved your review and remembered it the moment I saw the book in my library and I knew I had to read it!

So thank you for posting about it, otherwise I'd have missed out on a brilliant novel :)

Paperback Reader said...

You're welcome! I'm so glad that I discovered it too :)


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