Rediscover: The Group

The Group by Mary McCarthy is, in essence, the original Sex and the City. McCarthy's 1954 novel follows eight Vassar College alumnae in 1930s New York City, beginning with one of them getting married in 1933 and ending with her funeral in 1940. These women struggle for independence in an era of suffocating social expectations. Each chapter contends with some major issue, from relationship troubles, financial problems and child-rearing to workplace sexism. Most of the group's obstacles stem from the men in their lives, either husbands, employers, fathers or lovers. Their stories are at once time capsules and relevant reminders of hierarchical structures still not fully flattened.

Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) was orphaned at an early age by the 1918 flu pandemic. For a time, she and her brothers were raised by abusive Catholic grandparents in Minnesota, before being taken in by liberal grandparents in Washington State. She graduated from Vassar in 1933, became a socialist while working as a critic in New York City and remarried several times--autobiographical details that all appear in The Group. The 1963 edition of The Group remained on the New York Times bestseller list for two years. It was also adapted into a 1966 film directed by Sidney Lumet. When Candace Bushnell was asked to create a modern take on The Group, she wrote the first essays that would become the Sex and the City book, TV show and movies. The Group was last published in 1991 by Mariner Books (9780156372084). --Tobias Mutter

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