Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: The Engagements

The Engagements
By J. Courtney Sullivan
Published: June 11, 2013

From the New York Times best-selling author of Commencement and Maine comes a gorgeous, sprawling novel about marriage—about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.

Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years—forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love—the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding—beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings—and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own. 

As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.

A rich, layered, exhilarating novel spanning nearly a hundred years, The Engagements captures four wholly unique marriages, while tracing the story of diamonds in America, and the way—for better or for worse—these glittering stones have come to symbolize our deepest hopes for everlasting love.

My review:

The Engagements is a novel of interconnected stories. The book starts out with the true story of Frances Gerety, her career in advertising, and how she came up with "A Diamond is Forever". I enjoyed reading about Frances and the challenges she faced as a woman in what was very much a man's world. I also enjoyed the sections about Evelyn. Her love story with her first husband was touching. Delphine's story is interesting too though I do not agree with some of her choices. 

Kate is one of those characters who leaves the big city to have a very simple and organic life in the country. I liked her though she occasionally got on my nerves. I did admire her for sticking to her own guns in the face of family criticism. The one character more difficult to like is James but I even managed to find some sympathy for him as the book went along.

I wasn't sure how it would work to have a book with so many different stories but it flowed really well. I think using a ring as a way to connect the various stories was an inspired idea. I thought the characters seemed to be well developed too especially for the way the stories are told. Usually with a short story that is one of my criticisms but I didn't find that to be the case. It felt like we got to know the characters pretty well by the end of the book. 

The stories take a look at the concepts that we have of marriage, relationships, and what constitutes success. The diamond is a symbol that is used in different ways to express that. For Kate, diamonds represent violence and war as well as capitulating to society's expectations for a relationship. For Evelyn, a diamond is a reminder of lost love and new beginnings. For James, the diamond represents his failures as well as his hopes and ambitions to give his wife the life she deserves. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its exploration of marriage, relationships, and dreams. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Edelweiss and the publisher


  1. Glad you liked this book-as you saw, I adored it and I've been pushing it on some people but your review rekindles my love and encourages me to recommend it to more. I just thought it was fantastic and loved getting the stories doled out in snippets and seeing how they interconnected as the book progressed.

  2. I love the idea of this story, everything linked by a ring. It sounds like a pretty interesting read. :)

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I almost bought it the other day, but may wait till my TBR pile shrinks a bit. I like the idea of many different stories, and sometimes that can be tough to pull off, so I am glad to hear that it flowed. Great review, Christina! I definitely plan on reading this.


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