Lately I’ve been on a bit of a good-read streak. I just finished The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan and it was so lovely (made even better by the author favoriting my fangirl tweet the other day!). The book is separated into five different time periods ranging from 1947 to 2012 with consequently five narrators, each with its own set of family issues, marriages, and of course, diamond rings (the omnipresent backbone). Frances, a copyeditor at one of the most prestigious ad agencies in 1947, leads us into the book and is based off the real Frances Gerety, who came up with the line “A Diamond is Forever.” It took a little while for me to get into it because of this, but once you get past the fact-heavy beginning, the vast amounts of research (characters’ professions include paramedic, famous virtuoso, and French shop owner) are subtlety woven in so that I was actually glad I had that background to refer to.
I started writing a rundown of the characters, but the book switches between past and present so often that I don’t want to give anything away. The relationships are beautifully constructed and so many emotions are brought to life on the page. As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I get easily confused with multiple narrators, but I was genuinely happy to recognize and return to each character’s story, one after another. Kind of like seeing a friend after a big event in her or your life—desperate for details and brimming with happiness to be reunited. What I also loved was the number of layers Sullivan constructed. There is the biggest surprise at the end that I never saw coming, but one that really tied things up in an interesting way. Definitely not chick lit, and definitely a worthwhile read. Also by Sullivan are Maine and Commencement, both of which I would highly recommend. Check out her Q&A on the book here!