Published in 1963, Mary McCarthy’s novel follows eight young women following their college graduation (Vassar class of ’33). These women are educated and intelligent yet they are not immune from either the economic pressures of the Depression nor of societal pressures to be meek and fall in line. Without giving too much detail about any one woman’s life, McCarthy manages to place you into the world of the 1930s and into the lives of these women. She captures their struggles, their failures and successes. They are all unique and utterly human. They may have placed themselves on pedestals, but life sends them tumbling down again. Replete with important life events, these women are just as identifiable among groups of modern women, and though the pressures exerted on them are different than those today, it’s plain to see that not much has changed.
The book is neither particularly uplifting or particularly depressing. Instead of passing judgement on the characters, they’re allowed to simply be with all their faults. If you like literature of the 1920s and are interested in the progression of women beyond that period, I highly recommend this well-written novel.