Out of the grove of academe (Vassar-'31) into the big world comes the group, with their unassailable self-assurance: they had gone to the very best college (well, Vassar was better than Smith or Wellesley); they had some ennobling notions about being enlightened and interested in higher things; and they had had a very liberal education although in one area it proves to be a little patchy (in spite of stealthy readings in Krafft Ebbing and what the doctors at Vassar had told them)....This is the book which has aroused considerable advance speculation and well it might; it has a tremendous reader recognition (for a few—mottled with indignation) and there cannot be much doubt that Mary McCarthy is an exceptional social satirist, with a jackdaw eye and an infallible ear. Through the seriatim sequence of events as one by one the girls go out to get a job, or a man, or keep him, the book not only achieves its continuity but its mobility of life through the '30's, social, political, professional and personal. From Kay's wedding in the church where her unreal will be held at the close of the book, this goes from one to the next—Dottie and her first experience, stripped to her string of pearls—the totem of good taste; Libby, who had done outstanding themes at Vassar, and now tries to make the literary scene in New York; Polly and her love for a young publisher who is married and in treatment and in conflict between "Fall River and Union Square"; Lakey who goes off to Europe—only on her return, is her sapphic streak apparent to the group who had known her so well in that intimate circle of eight who had lived in South Tower; etc., etc. Certainly here, more than in any of her other novels, there's the evidence that Mary McCarthy can not only impale but move and there's more than a little residual sympathy for those involved. It's a stunning entertainment, with many special effects, the civilized intelligence, the style, the wit. Succ
ès de scandale
, it's an irresistible combination.
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