Thursday, 15 April 2010

Book of the Moment - The Group by Mary McCarthy

It's funny how sometimes things pass you by. 

The Group is a novel by Mary McCarthy that I recently stumbled upon in a bookshop and snapped up straight away. Just reading the cover, so many women whom I admire or am interested in were waxing lyrical about it (India Knight, Sarah Waters, Hilary Mantel, Candace Bushnell). Set in the 1930's, but published in the 1960's when feminism was really bubbling up in the US, it's one of the seminal feminist novels, apparently (there's a scene in series 3 of Mad Men in which Betty Draper is reading it in the bath). Isn't it funny how once you discover something it seems to be everywhere?

The Group is about a set of friends from Vassar who go out into the world (mostly New York) to marry, start families and build careers, all the while growing to realise just how tough it is to merge ones expectations, desires and dare we say it, 'rights' as a woman (and an educated, well off woman at that) within a society that has very different ideas about what a woman's identity and role should be. 

What is shocking is just how relevant this book feels to me, as a woman living and working almost 80 years after this book was set. Not only that, I'm amazed that no one ever told me about it (a brief chat to friends confirmed my suspicions - we were all ignorant as to it's existence). 

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