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Mary McCarthy

  • Original Title: THE GROUP
  • Publication date: August 1963
  • Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World
  • Country: US
  • 492 print pages
  • Dramedy/Classic


  • Epoch: Historical
  • Time Period: 20th century
  • Location setting: United States
  • Themes: FAMILY, Couple, Separation, Maternity, Mourning, Emancipation, PEOPLE facing life, Life choice, Coming of age, SOCIETY DYSFUNCTIONS, Inequality, Discriminations, SOCIAL CHRONICLES, Social relations, Diversity, Commitment, Friendship, LOVE / HATE, Sex, Amorous urge


Mary McCarthy’s most celebrated novel follows the lives of eight Vassar graduates, known simply to their classmates as ‘The Group’; an eclectic mix of personalities and upbringings who find love and heartbreak, forge careers, gossip and party in 1930s Manhattan.


In 1966, United Artists released a film adaptation of the novel directed by Sidney Lumet. The film was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival in 1966.

Translation rights sold: Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy

THE GROUP is the best-known novel of American writer Mary McCarthy. It made New York Times Best Seller list in 1963 and remained there for almost two years.

It can be seen as the original Sex and the City - the first novel to frankly portray women's real lives, exploring subjects such as sex, contraception, motherhood and marriage.

Hilary Mantel said it was: ‘absorbing, funny, painful… a beautifully managed novel… I consider it a masterpiece’.


THE GROUP follows eight graduates from exclusive Vassar College as they find love and heartbreak, forge careers, gossip and party in 1930s Manhattan.

In 1933, eight young female friends graduate from Vassar College. The book describes these women's lives post-graduation, beginning with the marriage of one of the friends, Kay Strong, and ending with her funeral in 1940. Each character struggles with different issues, including sexism in the work place, child-rearing, financial difficulties, family crises, and sexual relationships. Nearly all the women's issues involve the men in their lives: fathers, employers, lovers, or husbands. As highly educated women from affluent backgrounds, they must strive for autonomy and independence in a time when a woman's role is still largely restricted to marriage and childbirth. The plot is influenced by the political and economic atmosphere of the time. Over the course of the book, the reader learns about the women's views on contraception, love, sex, socialism, and psychoanalysis.

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  • Author’s biography

    Mary McCarthy (1912 - 1989) was an American novelist, critic and political activist. She was the author of more than two dozen books including the 1963 New York Times bestseller THE GROUP. After moving to New York City, she became known for her incisive writing as a contributor to publications such as the Nation, the New Republic, and the New York Review of Books. Her debut novel, THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS (1942), initiated her ascent to become one of the most celebrated writers of her generation, a reputation bolstered by the publication of her autobiography MEMORIES OF A CATHOLIC GIRLHOOD in 1957. She was the winner of the Horizon Prize in 1949, and was awarded two Guggenheim fellowships in 1949 and 1959. She won the National Medal for Literature and the Edward MacDowell Medal in 1984.