Synopses & Reviews
Eager to escape her carhop mother and the rank and file of her California town,Megan Greene heads for Radcliffe -- in part to pursue an older man (twenty-one, Harvard medical school, Cape Cod summers) who represents her dream of the upper-middle-class, conservative East Coast. What Megan finds are four other girls -- Janet, Lavinia, Peg, and Cathy -- who seem to have little in common save for their freshman status. Neither they nor Megan could know that their destinies are about to inextricably intertwine.
The year is 1943, and these superior women, as often enemies as friends, willshare a place in each other's lives that no one else can -- not husbands, notlovers. Across four decades, as time and events sweep away their expectations,five women discover their sexuality, reveal their secrets, struggle withindependence -- sometimes surrendering, sometimes making stunning choices -- in Alice Adams' richly drawn, uncompromising novel about women's intimate,interior, and often unsuspected lives.
The New Yorker
Reads easily, even breathlessly...the subtle but intensely felt shifts of
closeness among the young women are lovingly and expertly laid bare.
William AbrahamsSan Francisco ChronicleAlice Adams' place is in the company of John Updike and Mary McCarthy.
John UpdikeThe New YorkerReads easily, even breathlessly...the subtle but intensely felt shifts ofcloseness among the young women are lovingly and expertly laid bare.
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)Thousands of readers out there may catch a glimpse of themselves in theseRadcliffe superior women....The writing is first-rate.
Barbara Koenig QuartMs. magazineAdams has a way of capturing the multilayered reality of what passes betweenpeople in a moment in time....Superior Women has keen things to sayabout women past and present, and is pleasurable, intelligent reading.
"New York Times" bestselling author Alice Adams presents the compelling tale of five women who come of age during World War II, and flourish in the decades that follow.
About the Author
Alice Adams, born in Virginia and educated at Radcliffe College, is the author of ten highly praised novels. Her short stories have appeared in twenty-two O. Henry Award scollections and several volumes of Best American Short Stories. She has been the recipient of an Academy and Institute Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ms. Adams' other novels include Almost Perfect, a New York Times Notable Book, and Medicine Men, both published by Washington Square Press. She lives in San Francisco.
Reading Group Guide
The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion of Alice Adams' Superior Women.
We hope that these ideas will enrich your discussion and increase your enjoyment of the book.Reading Group Discussion Points
- Superior Women charts the shifting roles and identities of four women from the 1940s to the early 1980s. How were their choices affected -- or not affected -- by societal expectations?
- Money, ethnic and class distinctions figure prominently in the novel. Megan recognizes that many of these distinctions are artificial, and is sometimes surprised by their power (for example, when she is not invited to Lavinia's wedding). Do you think that these divisions are as strong today?
- The character Adam Marr makes a characteristically blunt assessment of Megan and her friends, stating: "You superior women have a real problem for yourselves, don't you. Just any old guy won't do. You wouldn't like him, and even if you did your strength would scare him, make him mad." Do you believe that he is stating the author's view? Why or why not?
- Adam Marr says that the kind of man Megan needs is a hero. Does she ever find one?
- None of the women in the novel find happiness in marriage. Discuss why this is so, and what you believe the author's view of marriage to be.
- Over the course of the novel, the political background changes drastically, from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement to the neo-Conservatism of the 1980s. Peg clearly came into her own in the 1960s. Which eras most suited the other characters? Which period seems most similar to today?
- Superior Women contrasts an East Coast versus a West Coast mentality. Give some examples of the two mindsets as displayed in the novel. In your experience, what characterizes an East Coast or West Coast outlook?
- Does the shelter for homeless people at the end of the novel strike you as a valuable way for Megan, Peg, Henry and the others to spend their time? Why or why not?
- Megan, Lavinia, Peg, Cathy and Janet have many talents and advantages in life. Do they make full use of their gifts? In what ways do they fail to use them? Why?
- From the beginning of Superior Women, Megan is embarrassed by her mother and makes sure that none of her friends ever meet her. At the novel's very end, her mother becomes a valued member of Megan's group. What differences and what similarities do you see between Megan and her mother? What finally brings them together?