Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Group Redux


In July I wrote about The Group by Mary McCarthy and I enthused about it; five months on and it remains one of my best book discoveries of 2009. Today marks the reissue of The Group by Virago Press as a Virago Modern Classic, a categorisation it so richly deserves; readers in the UK can now buy a copy (with 25% off from an affiliated online bookseller). Virago very kindly sent me the book and I was so happy to receive a copy of my own that I was tempted to immediately reread it again, which is testimony to how profound an impression this book made on me. I actually received my copy a few weeks ago but it was under embargo so I haven't been able to urge you all until now to buy The Group now that it is newly available!

When I reviewed The Group I mentioned the comparisons to Sex and the City (that may make some run for the hills but I personally love the show) and appropriately Candace Bushnell wrote the introduction to the reissued edition. Bushnell's editor commissioned her to write "the modern-day version of The Group" and what is apparent, being familiar with both and being a woman myself, is that the issues that face women and the choices they make are not so very different seventy years on (the novel is based in the 1930s).

The Group was published a few months after The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and is a seminal feminist text within the bounds of fiction. I find it interesting that Mary McCarthy distanced herself from this label as do current female writers (you can read more about the effect of the novel on McCarthy and subsequent women writers in this interesting Guardian article from the weekend). There is such a stigma attached to the word "feminist" that is, in my opinion, unjust. The Group is a highly enjoyable and intensely interesting novel that vividly evokes the era it is set in and yet remains timeless in its concerns. The first of its kind to address the issues of sex, contraception, motherhood, marriage and careers, The Group is a striking study of the issues women face and the choices they make. It is also wonderfully well-written and for writers and those aspiring to write, a great example of what can be achieved writing about real-life and personal experience.

In a serendipitous blog coincidence, Verity has reviewed The Group today.


22 comments:

Darlene said...

Social history revolving around women is some of my favourite reading...and I LOVE the cover!

Dot said...

I have heard a lot about this and it has gone on my Christmas wish list so fingers crossed!!

verity said...

This is a wonderful book - I hope EVERYONE gets it for Christmas.

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't read this one, but after your enthusiatic comments I will try to get hold of a copy.

savidgereads said...

This is promptly going on my Christmas list as it just sounds wonderful. I think the mixture of social history and a group of women is just my cup of tea.

The Sex and The City comparison only made me want to read it more. Mind you having heard the new storyline for the second sex and the city film I might need this book to replace that!!!

Kals said...

The cover is excellent - it caught my eye! Also, your write-up is exciting. I've added to my ever-growing TBR list =) This seems to be my kind of a book =)

chasingbawa said...

It's already on my wishlist after I read your first post. I had a look at the articule in the Guardian and it really struck me that the reason why her book resonated is probably because she writes about issues that are trivialised but have such an impact on women's lives. I can't wait to read this book.

Steph said...

Well, the new reissue of this novel is really quite lovely, and if I weren't already interested in reading this one, that would certainly push me over the edge!

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this one so much (I agree that it's a mark of a really great book if so soon after reading it you want to re-experience it!), and hopefully I can find this lovely copy over here in the States.

Molly said...

I somehow missed your original post in July - so I went back to re-read. You have convinced me that I need to add this title to my TBR list.

Eva said...

This sounds like so much fun! I love the TV Sex and the City too. :) (Never bothered reading the book.)

JoAnn said...

This is a book I'm determined to read in 2010! Thanks for mentioning it again.

Jodie said...

Oh brilliant I put this on my list, but I didn't realise I couldn't get it in the UK yet. And yay I love Sex and the City, I hear there is a second movie scheduled - what do you think, too much or more goodness?

Alison said...

I have seen this book mentioned all over the place recently and didn't realise it was a reissue at all! It's very clever marketing and after reading your post it sounds like this book thoroughly deserves to get as much publicity as possible! Not only do I really want to read, but can think of a couple of friends who I am sure would love this for Christmas! Thanks for the recommendation.

Nymeth said...

I'm really hoping that Santa (or, failing that, the Birthday Elf that visits shortly thereafter) will bring me this. I MUST read it for Women Unbound!

The Literary Stew said...

Oh, I just can't wait to read this. I still have to get my copy for the Women Unbound Challenge. It's the only one on my list that I don't have. I've heard nothing but good things about it. Oh, and I'm one of those who also loved Sex in the City!

Jenny said...

Heehee, seminal feminist text. P.S. I am immature. :P

Annabel Gaskell said...

My Mum recently gave me her original copy - I must read it, it sounds excellent.

Paperback Reader said...

Darlene, the cover is lovely, isn't it? I also love social history revolving around women hence why I read so many VMCs and Persephones.

Dot, I hope Santa brings it for you! It's a fantastic book.

Verity, wouldn't that be wonderful?! I am beyond thrilled that we have copies.

Jackie, it is a very interesting book - not so much plot-driven or characterised but a great commentary on the time and the issues facing the characters.

Simon, I think you'd love it! I'm not surprised at all that you love SaTC as much as I do; the comparison sold it for me too but I know that some people hate the show and think that the women are "types" rather than strong female role models.

Kals, I think it is a book that will suit a lot of different types of readers as it has wide appeal. I hope you enjoy it.

Sakura, that is why it resonated for me too - issues that are always facing women and society, universally and timelessly. I think you would really appreciate this book, as I have.

Steph, that's what The Book Depository is for ;). Do you know that they are now offering transactions in dollars? I knew that this book had made an impact on me but the desire to read it again so soon was a definite stamp of approval for me.

Paperback Reader said...

Molly, it is a worthy addition and I'm so happy to have convinced you!

Eva, it is fun in parts but it's simply a really good yet relevant read. I tried to read Bushnell's book once but is entirely different from the show (and more like the first series with the interviews). I do see the roots of it though in The Group and can see that ultimately the series was the modern-day equivalent (with the same issues in an up-to-date context).

JoAnn, I like to remind people about great books ;). I'm looking forward to your thoughts next year.

Jodie, I love the show so much that I have faith in the second movie - even if it is too much, it will never be enough for me! I'm going to make my boyfriend re-watch (first viewing for him) my DVD boxset in preparation for the new film!

Hi Alison, thanks for commenting for the first time. You're welcome for the recommendation and I hope that you and your friends enjoy it. It has been cleverly marketed and will appeal to a disparate range of (mainly female) readers.

Ana, I hope he (or she, the birthday elf) does bring it as it will be the perfect read for Women Unbound - hence my plug of it in my sign-up post!

Danielle, I think that most of love Sex and teh City but I didn't want to exclude the haters! I so hope that you enjoy this as I know how much you've been wanting to read it for the challenge.

Jenny, no comment ;).

Annabel, how wonderful to have your mum's original copy! Candace Bushnell said in her introduction that her mother gave her her copy to read as a teenager but she didn't read it but then read it at her editor's suggestion and has reread and reread for years since.

Sophie said...

Goody, people have been asking me what I want for Christmas left right and centre so this is another one for the list! It sounds fascinating.

leaningtowardthesun said...

I remember your post in July and I was interested then but I never physically added it to my list so thanks for the reminder :) I have requested it from the library now and am eagerly awaiting.

Paperback Reader said...

*oops, Mrs B. I called you Danielle earlier. Sorry!

Sophie, a great addition to your wishlist! The social commentary of the time is fascinating and it is a wonderful evocation of the Thirties.

Danielle, I'm always happy to oblige with a reminder - when I recommend something I like to ensure that people have a second and third chance to obtain a copy! Seriously though, this is a book I would urge everyone to read (and do).