Review: The Engagements

Title: The Engagements Image

Author: J. Courtney Sullivan

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: 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.

Review: Unlike how it was with Commencement, I found it to be a bit more difficult to relate to the stories of the characters in The Engagements. Through four different characters living in four different time periods, J. Courtney Sullivan looks into the dynamics of marriage. Some of the characters have found happiness in their marriage to their spouse, while others struggle to come to terms with the blurred reality between being in a relationship or being engaged to the actual commitment of a marriage ceremony. For me, as a woman in my early twenties that is not thinking about marriage at this time in her life, the stories were well-written yet did very little to reflect upon my experiences or aspirations.

What did make this book interesting, however, is the way that Sullivan included the story of a real-life woman in advertisement named Mary Frances Gerety. She is the woman responsible for the campaigns of De Beers and the creator of the phrase “A Diamond Is Forever.” By telling Mary Frances’ story of her work and how she strived to make men and women believe that they need a diamond ring, a theme was developed to carry throughout the novel. And this theme has really gotten me to now wonder if it is really necessary to have a diamond ring.

In conclusion, I can see The Engagements being most enjoyed by readers that wish to look into the dynamics of marriage. The alternating time periods that the characters live in does well to illustrate how marriage and the way it is thought of has evolved over time. Sullivan, as usual, is a superb writer and fans of her work will no doubt conclude that her technique improves more and more with each novel that she writes. Though here is to hoping that her next novel’s topic of interest will be something that I can relate to more!

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