Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The company she keeps (McCarthy)

So I'm sticking to my New Year resolutions and trying to once more make headway with my VMCs. As a treat for my first day back at work, I packed one of my new VMCs that I had been eagerly anticipating - The company she keeps by Mary McCarthy. I absolutely loved The group by the same author, and was hoping for more of the same.

However, rather than focussing on the stories of a number of people, this book is very definitely about one individual, Margaret Sargent. And rather than a straightforward story structure, the book is written in a series of vignettes or almost short story episodes which although appearing unrelated do eventually add up to give us a picture of Margaret. The picture isn't terribly likeable - following a marriage breakup, she leads a promiscuous and bohemian lifestyle. It's less of a story and more of a character study which didn't appeal to me in the way that The group had with its gripping story of girls lives.

It's a new Virago, with a new style cover.

1 comment:

  1. re: book review request by award-winning author

    Dear Verity:

    I'm an award-winning author with a new book of fiction out last month.
    Ugly To Start With is a series of thirteen interrelated stories about
    adolescence published by West Virginia University Press.

    All the stories in my collection have been previously published in
    well-regarded print and online literary magazines such as The Iowa
    Review, Passager, The Bitter Oleander, Confrontation, Salt River
    Review, The Foliate Oak. and The Cortland Review.

    Can I interest you in reviewing it?

    If you write me back at johnmcummings@aol.com, I can email you a PDF of my book. If you require a bound copy, please ask, and I will forward your reply to my publisher. Or you can write directly to Abby Freeland at:


    My publisher, I should add, can also offer your readers a free excerpt of my book through a link from your blog to my publisher's website:

    Here’s what Jacob Appel, celebrated author of
    Dyads and The Vermin Episode, says about my new collection: "In Ugly to Start With, set in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Cummings tackles the challenges of boyhood adventure and family conflict in a taut, crystalline style that captures the triumphs and tribulations of small-town life. He has a gift for transcending the particular experiences to his characters to capture the universal truths of human affection and suffering--emotional truths that the members of his audience will recognize from their own experiences of childhood and adolescence.”

    My short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice I have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. My short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

    I am also the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009), winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY.

    For more information about me, please visit:

    Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing back from you.


    John Michael Cummings