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The Group: Book Review

Reviewed by's Steph Zajkowski

Stop me if this premise sounds familiar.

A group of witty, educated, emancipated girlfriends come together in New York City to discuss men, careers, sex and wanting to have it all. 

This is the crux of new novel The Group.  Surely, I hear you cry, it's a rip off of Candace Bushnell's Sex and The City?

Nope - because Mary McCarthy, author of this particular story wrote about it all first - nearly fifty years ago.

The Group is a modern classic and I can't believe we haven't heard of it before now.

Written in the 1960's, set in the 1930's, this provided the inspiration for Candace Bushnell's own seminal novel, Sex and the City.

Bushnell rates The Group as such a profound influence, she's written the foreword to this recently rereleased edition.

"It's a book I prize," she states, "not only for its blistering satire, but for its technical elements, including McCarthy's brilliant use of the soliloquy, her pacing and razor-sharp descriptions."

And she's not the only modern novelist singing the praises of this sharp and sardonic tale of eight Vassar (University) grads.

Booker prize winner Hilary Mantel ( read our review of Wolf Hall here) calls The Group "a masterpiece".

Even chick-lit queen Marian Keyes "can't recommend it highly enough".

Still racy even by today's standards, this novel caused a massive hoo-ha upon its release in the 60s.

Its frank descriptions of sex, contraception and breast-feeding in 1930's America caused such a scandal that the novel was banned (in Australia) as an offence to public morals.

It was probably the sort of novel everyone wanted to read, but wouldn't admit to doing so.

However its (then) scandalous content kept it on top of the New York Times bestseller list for two years.

The timelessness of the story has prompted The Group to be republished for a modern audience.

For me, its continued relevance to today's society is one of the novel's most remarkable aspects. These women are going through what many of us still struggle with today.

The Group is absorbing, fascinating, sarcastic, peppered with dark humour and very insightful.

Without doubt, it's a novel to guard jealously - only lend it out to friends if you're sure you're likely to get it back.  Because you'll read it and re-read it. I loved it.

No wonder it's stood the test of time.

I'll leave the final word to Bushnell:

"Here were instantly recognizable characters; idealistic young women in their twenties confronting the difficulties and surprising joys of real life.

" The Group reminds us that not much has really changed. Sex before marriage, lousy men, career versus family, they're all here.

"I'm sure I'll never be able to pull off a book like The Group but McCarthy will always inspire me."

Get a copy now!

Rating: 8.5/10

The Group
Author: Mary McCarthy
Publisher: Hachette
RRP : $27.99
Available: Now