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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching tale superbly written
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...
Published 18 months ago by Nitty's Mom

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book...
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...
Published 18 months ago by M. D. Mulhern


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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching tale superbly written, May 19, 2013
This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
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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. When left to pick up their wedding rings, her mind is elsewhere.

How the author weaves these separate stories together into a compelling novel is flawless. While the book alternates between the five different characters and time periods, it is not hard to keep up with. All the separate stories are artfully written with very human and believable characters. The novel is also filled with interesting information about diamonds and the world of advertising. The end is touching and leaves one with the thought, not only is a diamond forever, but what a story a diamond might be able to tell.
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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
This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
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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
By 
PattyLouise "Patty" (The lovely East Coast!) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
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The Engagements
by
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. There were tons of characters within the essential stories but it was easy to keep all of the characters in order. I also loved the way the story continued to go back to Frances.

What I did not love...

It's essential to the book but there was a ton of sort of wordy stuff to read. Some of the events were not that interesting and seem to go on...and on...but I managed and still loved the book.

Final thoughts...

Readers who love a great story that begins in the forties and goes on until the present
will delight in this book.
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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
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This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
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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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, June 14, 2013
By 
Daphne Jones (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
"The Engagements" opens in 1947 with ad-agency copy writer Frances Gerety's (a real person, we later learn in the novel's post script) struggling to find a last-minute slogan for her client, De Beers. She happens upon "Diamonds are forever," which is ironic because Gerety is a lifelong bachelorette for whom diamonds hold no particular emotional appeal.

Gerety's story is the jumping on point for author J. Courtney Sullivan, who takes us through an appealing spectrum of stories told across different eras, from the 1970s to modern day. Each vignette looks at what diamonds (and by extension, relationships) mean to people in a different way. They're moving and eye-opening tales.

Sullivan's a born story teller, and this is story telling at its finest: emotional, curious, revealing. A great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Follow the diamond!, September 6, 2014
Previous reviews discuss the plot perfectly, but missed the point of the book entirely in my opinion. This book is a woman's book and all about the journey of a diamond ring and its significance to its owners. Along the way, the cultural history of diamonds, life, love, family, and relationships are all intertwined with this journey.

This book starts out as a historical fictional account of Mary Francis Gerety, who was an advertising executive for the Ayer Agency in the 1940's who as a career woman was not recognized or appreciated for her talents, and was hired to provide the "female point of view". Francis was assigned the DeBeers diamond account and as a brilliant creator of ad campaigns wrote one of the most successful ad slogans of all time, "A Diamond is Forever", and created a love affair between women and diamonds forever. Francis was able to create a need for a product where none existed, and prior to her campaign only wealthy women received diamond engagement rings.

This book is a written in an unusual way, instead of chapter headings it is written by year, and jumps from one family story to another. The five separate stories eventually converge into one, all centered on a special diamond ring and its journey. Please take note; if you do not have a good memory, please take notes! It is very easy to become confused with the 4 other stories and their subplots! I have rarely needed to do this, but without my notes, I would have been hopelessly lost!

The basic "chapters" are:
1947 - Mary Frances, 32 year old career ad executive works on the deBeers diamond account campaign
1972 - Evelyn & Gerald, teacher and wealthy husband who have a loser son Teddy that divorces his lovely wife with two little girls
1987 - Sheila & James - Nurse and Paramedic, financially struggle and wind up with son who is a violin prodigy
2003 - Delphine, Henri, & P.J. - Delphine, a Parisian woman has an affair with American P.J., leaves Paris and husband for New York
2012 - Kate, Dan, Ava, Jeffrey, & Toby, etc - Jeffrey and Toby have gay wedding and Kate, their cousin who refuses to marry her love, Dan is instrumental in helping with the wedding plans

How can these completely different stories converge towards one diamond engagement ring? There are clues as you continue to read, and foreshadowing hidden if you look closely enough! For example, "this is not the first time this diamond has been lost".

If you like to read historical fictional stories about how people and iconic things become popular, this book might interest you. I must admit that this is definitely a women's read, and a great book club book.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DIAMONDS: THE COMMON THREAD, May 2, 2013
This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
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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.

As I read each of the vignettes that seemingly had nothing in common with each other, especially since we skipped ahead years to focus on the characters in each of the spotlighted times, this tale felt a little like a collection of short stories. The common element: diamonds. And specifically, engagement rings.

Some of the characters and their lives were more enjoyable than others....and at times, I was weary of trying to remember the characters from the previous stories about them. But gradually, as more details surfaced with each leap in time, and as more backstory was revealed, I started to feel connected to them.

In the end, many loose ends seemingly converged to reveal the mysterious connections between them all. The Engagements is an intriguing story that I would have enjoyed more if it hadn't "sprawled" quite so much. Nevertheless, a book I'd recommend to Sullivan fans...and those who like to think of how much "serendipity" plays a role in our lives. 3.5 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A noble effort, but basically tedious, July 22, 2013
By 
Neal Reynolds (Indianapolis, Indiana) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
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This book certainly will have its audience, but for me it was way overly complicated by just too many characters and the story being told in different timelines. This is totally slow reading and it didn't have to be.

The concept is good and it is commendable. It may well have appeal to those younger than myself, but I believe seniors like myself will have trouble connecting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Engagements is a natural for book clubs, June 18, 2013
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Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
A 1948 in-house strategy memo from N.W. Ayer and Son, the advertising agency responsible for the diamond manufacturer De Beers, clearly gives their execs their marching orders --- make the diamond engagement ring as essential to the wedding ritual as the dress, or even the groom.

"'We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer's wife and the mechanic's sweetheart say, "I wish I had what she has.'"

And the woman behind creating this need was groundbreaking advertising executive Frances Gerety. Based in Ayer's Philadelphia office, it was Gerety who came up with the iconic phrase "A Diamond is Forever," which is still used in De Beers advertising today. And because of this brilliant strategy, the diamond engagement ring has become synonymous with weddings in post-World War II America.

With Gerety's story framing the narrative, J. Courtney Sullivan weaves a tapestry of several marriages and relationships over the course of many years, made manifest by one diamond engagement ring. First worn by Evelyn Pearsall in the 1920s, we follow this one particular ring throughout the years and the many marriages and relationships it has witnessed. Evelyn marries Nathaniel, her college sweetheart, in the hospital chapel after he suffered horrible injuries in a car accident, to which he finally succumbed.

Devastated by her young husband's death, she never could have predicted that she would eventually fall in love with Nathaniel's roommate and their mutual friend, Gerald. But their shared grief brings them together, and soon they realize they were meant to be. Delphine marries her business partner and friend, Henri, and although the marriage is not bursting with passion, there is comfort, mutual respect and security within the confines of their relationship.

That is, until Delphine meets young concert violinist P.J., and she gives in to the desires she has previously repressed. But she soon discovers that with great passion comes great strife, when she leaves Henri for her handsome musician and uproots her entire life to follow him to New York City. James is a frustrated rock star in his soul and a harried paramedic in reality. His long-suffering wife, Gloria, was recently the victim of a mugging where the thief absconded with her engagement ring. It wasn't a very impressive one since they married so young, but James is determined to save up enough money to buy her a new one --- a ring she deserves. Kate, her boyfriend, Dan, and their young daughter, Ava, are playing host to her mother, her sister, May, and May's entire family as they gather for their cousin Jeff's wedding to his longtime boyfriend, Toby.

Kate has long been considered the black sheep of the family, choosing to buck tradition and not get married. She also doesn't want to play into that consumerist trap of getting an ostentatious diamond that most likely made its way to this country on the blood and sweat of some poor African worker. She couldn't understand the pandemonium a wedding brings: "There was something fascinating about the juxtaposition of their obsession with perfection --- Will it rain? Which dress should I pick?! How will the food taste? --- with the darkest concerns about love and life, and how easily it could all unravel. Kate wondered if this was the reason weddings had gotten so out of control. Were they meant to distract you from your fear and uncertainty?" There has to be more to marriage than just the wedding, right?

Using the clever device of the ring, Sullivan gets to explore many love stories and varied narratives in different time periods, reflecting the changing times and mores, and even the fluctuating attitudes towards the institution of marriage itself. As the book progresses, a seamless tapestry comes together, as we begin to see how each couple, each person, relates to the others. 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, as deftly demonstrated in her earlier novels, COMMENCEMENT and MAINE. What could prove daunting for most writers --- covering a multitude of characters over such a broad scope in time --- she tackles effortlessly, and fully realized people and situations emerge.

With so much grist for discussion, THE ENGAGEMENTS is a natural for book clubs. Fans of Anne Tyler (especially of THE AMATEUR MARRIAGE) and, more recently, Jennifer Close's GIRLS IN WHITE DRESSES and THE SMART ONE will also relate to Sullivan's honest and unflinching look at marriage in all its varieties.

It is worth noting that Sullivan passes along this little gem about marriage by the poet Ogden Nash, entitled "A Word to Husbands," which I can't wait to incorporate into a wedding/anniversary toast:

"To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up."

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, December 1, 2013
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This review is from: The Engagements (Hardcover)
**Warning! Review contains spoilers!**
My book club is reading this book, so even though I realized very early on that it wasn't really for me, I did finish it. I agree with many other reviewers: the writing itself was compelling and I will admit that the book is a bit of a page-turner. Although in the end, the bad far outweighed the good and I ended up NOT liking the book.

I found many of the characters loathsome and completely detestable. Kate: did not like her AT ALL. I actually found myself siding with her sister May (you know, the one you weren't supposed to like, the married one who evidently watches FOX News). Kate was so self-righteous and smug with her political-correctness that I grew to dislike her more and more as the story progressed.

Delphine was just as offensive, if not more so. Leaving poor Henri for that punk PJ? I was hoping Henri wouldn't take her back, but it seems he did. Boo, Henri! You deserved better--even if it meant being alone!

Also, if I want to hear about how idiotic and mindless people like Kate and Delphine (read: J. Courtney Sullivan) think conservatives/Republicans are, I can do that elsewhere. I don't read novels for the purpose of being hit over the head with the author's political opinions. This book had tremendous potential, but IMO fell far short. So disappointing!
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The Engagements
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan (Hardcover - June 11, 2013)
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