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The Engagements (Vintage Contemporaries) [Kindle Edition]

J. Courtney Sullivan
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (260 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

This ebook edition includes a Reading Group Guide. 

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A pioneering, single career woman writes what becomes a legendary slogan for a product she will never use. A husband and wife teeter on the edge of bankruptcy after she is mugged and her most precious piece of jewelry is stolen. A mother despairs over the end of her son’s marriage as she recalls the precarious circumstances of her own. A married French woman becomes engaged to an American musician only to discover him cheating on her with her best friend. An overly practical woman nearly ruins her gay cousin’s wedding. Inspired by the real-life story of Frances Gerety, a 1940s copywriter who penned the “A Diamond Is Forever” tagline for DeBeers, Sullivan riffs on the fragile state of marriage through a clever series of loosely connected vignettes. At the heart of each episode lies that sparkly symbol of romantic commitments, and what could have been a distractingly disjointed narrative style is give a sharp and crystalline coherence by virtue of Sullivan’s sometimes bold, sometimes nuanced improvisation on the resonance of the diamond engagement ring. --Carol Haggas


Praise for The Engagements: 

The Engagements . . . opens in 1947 with ad-agency copywriter Frances Gerety . . . Struggling to find a last-minute tagline for De Beers, she scribbles down ‘A Diamond Is Forever' and promptly falls asleep. For Frances, a lifelong bachelorette, it's just marketing — her boss points out that the phrase isn't even grammatically correct. But Engagements' other characters show how much her tossed-off idea came to define diamonds as the ultimate symbol of love and commitment . . . [Sullivan is] a born storyteller. Like its mineral muse, Engagements shines.”
—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“A perceptive portrait . . . In Sullivan’s easy, unadorned style, The Engagements is a delightful marriage of cultural research and literary entertainment . . . Sullivan handles all the details elegantly, and the situations are surprisingly distinct . . . For all her sharp wit and insight into the agony of failed relationships, Sullivan’s no cynic. The novel’s final wedding transcends the craziness and the extravagance and the bickering. Against all odds, it represents something genuinely eternal about the love between two people.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

The Engagements is a rollicking, entertaining read and a thought-provoking one too. Several of the characters’ voices have stayed in my head, and even days after putting it down I am left with a sturdy, hopeful sense of the fundamental goodwill of people and the abiding power of love . . . [I] am certain it will be one of this summer’s big hits.”
—Lindsey Mead, Huffington Post
“The best-selling author of Commencement and Maine has written her most ambitious novel yet.”
Entertainment Weekly

"Sullivan takes the cake when it comes to tying the knot . . . brilliantly captures how the vicissitudes of life—grief, infidelity, pressure—echo throughout a marriage." —Elizabeth Taylor, Editor's Choice, Chicago Tribune

“Winning . . . [A] decades-spanning tale of four very different couples and the determinedly single career girl who dreamed up ‘a diamond is forever,’ the slogan that helped make engagement rings de rigueur. There's plenty of romance and sparkle, but . . . this is one smart summer read.” –Kim Hubbard, People 
“Any one of the five stories of The Engagements could have been a novel in itself. Taken together, though, they rather brilliantly represent different facets of marriage — and not always the bright and shiny ones . . . Captivating . . . Clever . . . Sullivan’s writing is smooth as she takes the reader back and forth in time and in and out of relationships; by the end, you understand, as one character notes, that marriages can come and go, and it’s only the diamond that lasts.”
—Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan’s sprawling saga of a novel, all centered around the idea of love, marriage, and, yes, a particular diamond ring. In five interconnected stories, ranging from those of the fictionalized Frances to the contemporary Kate, couples work out their sense of what marriage means in terms of commitment and family . . . These alternating stories make for a more ambitious book than Sullivan’s two bestsellers, Commencement and Maine . . .This book has a momentum of its own . . . The protagonists are highly likable.”  
Boston Globe

“A seamless tapestry . . . Sullivan is a keen observer of people and how they morph over time, either being softened by the years or made more brittle by strife.”
—Bronwyn Miller,
“[Sullivan] threads her story with the glitter of diamonds . . . a tale that sweeps across varied emotional landscapes.”
New York Daily News

“This novel’s concept is as shiny as a diamond itself.”
“Sullivan has written an intricate, beautifully timed novel, so delicious in its gradual unfolding that readers will want to reread it immediately to enjoy the fully realized ties.”
—Beth Andersen, Library Journal

“For her third novel, best-selling author J. Courtney Sullivan (Commencement and Maine) places the indelible diamond slogan and its creator at the heart of a generously populated, multi-generational tale . . . The Engagements moves at a brisk pace; it's a fun story. I grew especially fond of Kate and her cousins Jeff and Toby; her married sister, Meg; her divorced mother; her abiding partner; her daughter who (as it turns out) likes fancy dresses and perhaps even dolls. There's dark and light to Kate, despair and tenderness, a sense of a character still unfolding, complexity. Kate says what she thinks, and then she thinks some more. I love that she gets the last word.”
—Beth Kephart, Chicago Tribune

“Satisfying . . . At each stage of the game, the engagement ring has a different meaning.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Delving into the allure of ‘for better or worse,’ Sullivan’s novel starts with Frances, an unmarried copywriter who coins the ‘A Diamond Is Forever’ slogan, then follows four couples to the altar. Frank, but fun.”
Good Housekeeping Summer Beach Roundup

“This novel is a fun look at diamond advertising and the people who do—and do not—buy into the hype . . . I was captivated by the narratives and thrilled with the way the pieces came together in the end.”
—Angela Livengood, Real Simple

“The author of Maine and Commencement returns with a sprawling tale about marriage, its meaning, its importance and whether or not a diamond really is forever.”
—Ashley Ross, Marie Claire 

 “The author of Commencement and Maine threads her story with the glitter of diamonds . . . It’s a tale that sweeps across varied emotional landscapes.”
—Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News
“The bestselling author of Maine and Commencement opens her third novel with the tale of Frances Gerety, the real-life ad copywriter who coined ‘A diamond is forever’ for De Beers.  It’s the perfect springboard for Sullivan’s story, which follows four couples as they navigate the shifting terrain of love and marriage.”
People Magazine
“This sprawling novel about marriage spans nearly 100 years and focuses on four couples, as well as a young single copywriter who coins the ad slogan ‘Diamonds Are Forever,’ which resonates through the decades.”
—Cathleen Schine, Los Angeles Times

“Is a diamond really forever? So Sullivan (Maine, 2011, etc.) asks in her third novel . . . Frances Gerety, a real person whom Sullivan enlists at the outset of her tale, had a daunting task way back in 1947: She had to cook up an advertising tagline for De Beers that would convince Americans to purchase diamond engagement rings, hitherto ‘considered just absolutely money down the drain.’ Sullivan’s story takes off from there, diamonds forming a leitmotif in ingeniously connected stories that span generations. As B. Traven advised in his grand tale of gold, precious objects can cause people to do very bad things; so they do here . . . Does money ever buy any of them happiness? Not really, but it does score a few carats. A modern update of The Spoils of Poynton; elegant, assured, often moving and with a gentle moral lesson to boot.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“Inspired by the real-life story of Frances Gerety, a 1940s copywriter who penned the ‘A Diamond is Forever’ tagline for DeBeers, Sullivan riffs on the fragile state of marriage through a clever series of loosely connected vignettes. At the heart of each episode lies that sparkly symbol of romantic commitments . . . given a sharp and crystalline coherence by virtue of Sullivan’s sometimes bold, sometimes nuanced improvisation on the resonance of the diamond engagement ring.”
—Carol Haggas, Booklist
In praise of Maine:

"You don’t want the novel to end in July. You want to stay with the Kellehers straight through to the end of August, until the sand cools, the sailboats disappear from their moorings, and every last secret has been pried up." —Lily King, The New York Times Book Review

"I have never stayed at this cottage in Maine, or any cottage in Maine, but no matter: I now feel I know what it's like being in a family that comes to the same place summer after summer, unpacking their familiar longings, slights, shorthand conversation, and ways of being together. J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine is evocative, funny, close-quartered, and highly appealing." –Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling

“An ideal summer read. . . . Gives us . . . characters we can care about, despite their sometimes too-familiar flaws.” —USA Today
“Attentive to class distinctions and hierarchies, as well as historic pressures and family dynamics, Sullivan presents women who may be stubborn and difficult, but she does so with such compassion and humor that we, too, end up rooting for them. Even if Maine weren't set on a beach, it would be a perfect beach book.” —Chicago Tribune

"Sullivan’s smarts shed ...

Product Details

  • File Size: 1367 KB
  • Print Length: 529 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 11, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,491 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching tale superbly written May 19, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed The Engagements, which is an appealing book for those who prize relationship over plot. As she proved in her novel "Maine", J. Courtney Sullivan is a fine writer of women's fiction.

We initially are introduced to the true life advertising executive, Mary Francis Gerety who penned the slogan "A Diamond is Forever". The year is 1947and Mary Francis is 32 years old and trying to make a name for herself in the world of advertising. She has a job as a copywriter at the most powerful Ayer advertising agency, and working on the De Beers Diamond campaign. In 1947, women were hired only to provide a feminine point of view, however; Mary Francis is married to her job and wants to further her career.

In 1972, Evelyn has a wonderful marriage to her second husband. She also takes great pleasure in her daughter-in-law and her two grandchildren, however, her self-centered son is coming to lunch and that means trouble.

In 1987, James is trying to make ends meet as a paramedic. He has married his childhood sweetheart and they have a young son. Lately James has become concerned that, just like her parents, perhaps Sheila wishes she had married one of her more successful suitors.

In 2003, Delphine is exacting revenge on her young famous lover. She has left her business, husband and country for this egotistical man and has just found out he has been cheating on her.

In 2012, Kate is getting ready to attend her gay cousin's wedding. She has a wonderful partner and they have a daughter, but Kate has absolutely no interest in making the relationship legal. While she is happy that her cousin will finally be allowed to marry, she cannot believe how out of control their big day has gotten.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be Suprised June 17, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I wasn't sure what to expect from The Engagements when I picked it up to read. What I found when I closed the book that it was a smartly written books that subtly draws you in and doesn't let you go. If you are looking for the connections between the stories off the bat, you won't find it. It isn't until half-way through the book that you start to see them. I loved that. I loved how it was all weaved together in the end.

There will be stories that you care about and the stories you don't. What fascinated me was the historical aspect of diamond adverstising. I was often stopping and telling my husband about something I learned. I always love learning something new.

Ms. Sullivan has a gem of a book on her hands here and it is the perfect summer read.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diamonds... May 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Engagements
J.Courtney Sullivan

My " in a nutshell" summary...

Sort of the history of De Beers diamonds and the way they were used in advertisements years and years ago. Add to that the stories of couples...and their diamond rings...that sums up this book!

My thoughts after reading this book...

This is a story that began with Frances...who was a woman working in advertising when women were only given "women" things to work on and made half the salary of men in advertising. France's came up with the slogan "a diamond is forever". This was also at a time when diamonds were not that popular and only the really wealthy had them and they usually were in the family for years and years.

So...that's the beginning of this lovely book. The rest of the book meanders among couples that are married, about to be married, shouldn't be married and those who question marriage. The book touches different years...sort of in a back and forth manner...and quite honestly...I had no clue how anything was connected until I was almost at the end of the book. The lives of the couples in each section were interesting and varied. Some were wealthy, some not so wealthy, some were happy, some not so happy. Some sections were more interesting than others but that didn't detract from the simple loveliness of this book.

What I loved about this book...

I loved some couples and some years more than others. I loved Evelyn and Gerald. Old fashioned, polite, and sweet with a nasty spoiled son. I didn't love James and Sheila. I didn't love Daphne, either, but her story was engaging and fun to read.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book... May 30, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was very intrigued by the premise of "The Engagements." I did not like J. Courtney Sullivan's last book, "Maine," at all, but was interested enough to give this book a try. There are five narratives to this book....the back story to Frances Gerety's "A Diamond is Forever" ad campaign and then four short stories that end up having a very interesting connection.

Honestly, I would have loved to read and learn more about De Beers, Ayer advertising and Gerety. But this book did provide enough information to fill in the blanks for me a whet my appetite for more!

The short stories started out strong but truthfully, my interest waned at the end. I think this is mainly due to the fact that there are not many appealing characters in the book. No real happy endings if you will and this was a little frustrating for a book about engagements. I don't even think you could call it realistic because certainly, there are lots of happy people out there!

But overall I loved how the author connected everyone, eventually and this was a unique book. But definitely don't expect a feel good, summer read. But then, I don't think any of her books are!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, but a very good book well written
great book, not what I expected, it was chosen as part of a book club, so I read it otherwise I would not have chosen this type of book... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Sandra
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read!
Flawlessly written and totally engaging! (pun intended) I could not put it down. Such a wonderful compilation of characters and stories. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Jane from Maine
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
It was confusing and though it came together it was not very interesting.
Published 8 days ago by Joan Schickler
5.0 out of 5 stars Follow the diamond!
Previous reviews discuss the plot perfectly, but missed the point of the book entirely in my opinion. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Joyce
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, thought-provoking
Surprising. In the beginning, I searched for the connection between the anecdotes. Then, I began to enjoy simply considering the different perspectives on 'love,' tied together... Read more
Published 15 days ago by C. Kane
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Highly recommend this!!
Published 1 month ago by Mary k
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
This was well written and really relatable to many in various areas of their relationship. It gave some interesting background to the diamond tradition and how the engagement ring... Read more
Published 1 month ago by pinkadidas178
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved
This book takes multiple stories through time and connects them in a small way. It took a while to get into the stories but once I became interested I was completely obsessed. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Morgan
4.0 out of 5 stars many stories with a link
I enjoyed all the stories of the MANY characters in this book, however, I kept wondering how it would all come together. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rachel H
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This was a great book for the romantic in all of us. Lots of surprising twists and turns along the way. The book spans 100 years so you get a feel for how. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Elaine Raffino
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More About the Author

J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement and Maine. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. Her third novel, The Engagements, has been called "her most ambitious novel yet" by Entertainment Weekly. Kirkus gave it a starred review, and praised The Engagements as "Elegant, assured, often moving and with a gentle moral lesson to boot."

Courtney's writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, and the New York Observer, among many others. She is a co-editor of Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Visit Courtney at or on Twitter at @jcourtsull

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