The Group

This 1963 novel by Mary McCarthy is what Rory is reading while waiting in line to buy tickets to the winter formal. Tristan teases her for this by saying “how novel”.

The Group is about eight young women, educated and from wealthy backgrounds, and their lives after graduation during the 1930s. It explores the various issues they have to face, such as sexism, child-rearing, financial problems, family strife, and sexual relationships, mostly revolving around the men in their lives, whether husbands, lovers, fathers, or employers.

Striving for independence, they are hampered by an era where women are restricted in their options, and although the novel is not a feminist work, it casts a sharp eye on female lives and ideas, and shows how the personal is political. The novel is partly autobiographical and spent more than two years on the best-seller list when it was published.

Rory may have been drawn to the novel because it examines the choices of educated young women after graduation – especially because the women in “the group” are characterised as intellectuals sensitive to art and beauty, rather than politically aware or active. The literary one of the group, Libby MacAusland, and her subsequent disastrous career may have been of interest to Rory as well.

(Unexpected connection: Mary McCarthy is the sister of Kevin McCarthy, who starred in Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

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