Thursday, June 5, 2014

Currently Reading: The Group

I really did just start reading this book but it's one I have been eagerly anticipating! Written by Mary McCarthy in 1963, it's the story of a group (of course) of girlfriends who graduate from Vassar College in 1933. I'm less than a full chapter into the story (it has really long chapters, but still) and I can already tell that this is another one of those books that is an absolute treat to read! McCarthy's word choice is impeccable. It's so smart and witty and impossibly perfect for her characters and for the feel of this novel. The girls (there are 8 of them in 'the group') behave just as you would expect a group of Vassar graduates from that day to behave. All of them are interesting and a little quirky and even a bit envious.

The story begins at the wedding of Kay, one of the girls, to a man named Harald. It is a week after their commencement and following the reception, all of the girls will go on their own way through the adult world. Some go to Europe, some go into publishing or nursing, and some go on to form new relationships. McCarthy follows the paths that the girls travel through their lives apart and they are only brought back together when one of the girls dies.

Some call this McCarthy's best book, which is saying something because she has a large repertoire of extremely praised books. So far, I am greatly enjoying this novel. Something people who might want to read this book should know, I do not view this book as a light, summer read. The paragraphs and chapters are long so you have to be able to devote good chunks of time to reading it. Also, the verbiage requires constant and close attention so it is not easy to read if there are other distractions present otherwise you will find yourself going back a bit in the book to reread things you may have missed or to find out who is speaking. I don't mind any of that, the content of this book is well worth the necessary attention. The only thing that is troubling me about the novel thus far is the abundance of women in the group. As I said, there are 8 of them and I often am confused as to which girl belongs to which previously written backstory or character description. However, I am hoping that as I continue reading it will become more clear.

I definitely recommend this book to women that are interested in the lives of academic women of the past, to anyone who enjoys a witty novel that requires some concentration, and to anyone who loves good prose and a well-written sentence.

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