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The Engagements (Vintage Contemporaries) by [Sullivan, J. Courtney]
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The Engagements (Vintage Contemporaries) Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 325 customer reviews

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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

Review

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, BookReporter.com
 
“[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.”
Glamour 
 
“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 light on topics all families deal with, but her tasteful approach on the tough ones (particularly modern-day religious issues) shine through. The cast of quirky characters will have you laughing out loud and aching for their regrets in the same chapter, pining for more pages when it comes to an end." —MarieClaire.com

"Maine’s brisk storytelling, and the unfurling of its central mystery . . . sweep readers along with gratifying sink-into-your-deck-chair ease." —Entertainment Weekly

"Curl up with this wry, absorbing novel and eavesdrop on a summer’s worth of secrets, feuds, and misunderstandings." —Parade magazine

"Ms. Sullivan’s follow-up to her best-selling novel, Commencement . . . follows adult children who gather at their beach cottage in Maine to sip that familial cocktail of misery and love. . . . Once the women are together, the fuse is lighted. Ms. Sullivan locks the doors and waits for the explosion." —The New York Times

"[Sullivan] validates the old adage that you can pick your friends, but you are stuck with your relatives. This is a powerful, evocative story, beautifully written to reveal raw human emotions. . . . Fresh and lively. . . . This is a well-crafted story about destructive family relationships and shameful behavior, loaded with tension, secrets, booze, marital conflict, stinging arguments, and some very funny scenes." —The New Maine Times

"Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan is a powerful novel about the ties that bind families tight, no matter how dysfunctional. Sullivan has created in the Kelleher women a cast of flawed but lovable characters so real, with their shared history of guilt and heartache and secret resentments, that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about them for a long time to come." –Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot

"Everyone has dark secrets. It’s why God invented confession and booze, two balms frequently employed in Sullivan’s well-wrought sophomore effort. Alice Brennan is Irish American through and through, the daughter of a cop, a good Catholic girl so outwardly pure that she’s a candidate for the papacy. . . . As Sullivan’s tale unfolds, there are plenty of reasons that Alice might wish to avoid taking too close a look at her life: There’s tragedy and heartbreak around every corner, as there is in every life. . . . Sullivan spins a leisurely yarn that looks into why people do the things they do—particularly when it comes to drinking and churchgoing—and why the best-laid plans are always the ones the devil monkeys with the most thoroughly. The story will be particularly meaningful to Catholic women, though there are no barriers to entry for those who are not of that faith. Mature, thoughtful, even meditative at times—but also quite entertaining." –Kirkus

"At the heart of this compelling novel of three generations of women emotionally stunted by fate and willful stubbornness is the family vacation property in Cape Neddick, ME, where the Kellehers have convened for six decades. . . . In her second novel (after Commencement), Sullivan brilliantly lays out the case for the nearly futile task of these three generations of badly damaged Irish Catholic women seeking acceptance from one another." –Library Journal

"Sullivan creates deeply observed and believable [characters]. . . . Moody matriarch Alice, her uninvolved hippie daughter Kathleen, brown-nosing daughter-in-law Mary Ann, and newly-single, thirtysomething granddaughter Maggie each has a simmering-below-the surface inner-monologue that lights a spark, and Sullivan makes sure we can only anticipate an explosion. Sullivan gracefully meets the challenge of crafting a cast clearly pulled from the same DNA soup, without a clunk or hitch in the machinery." –Booklist

 

Product Details

  • File Size: 3454 KB
  • Print Length: 529 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 11, 2013)
  • Publication Date: June 11, 2013
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00ALBR2LS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,894 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nitty's Mom TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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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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Format: Paperback
This book was nearly unbearable. Not sure why I finished it. The subtitle should probably be "why I hate marriage". The characters are awful. Just awful. We have James the passive guy who seems to be unaware he has any control over his own life. Delphine the immature woman who only gets more immature as the book goes on. Evelyn the slightly sympathetic but rather self-absorbed rich woman. And, last but certainly not least, Kate. Lord save us from the Kates of the world. She is too socially aware to be happy. She is the woman who can barely eat because somewhere someone may be hungry and how dare we enjoy a bite of food!. And Smith seems to like her best as she is the only character who gets a functional relationship. Why is that? Because she hates marriage (based on all of those vaguely pseudo-philosophical hipster reasons). And jewelry. And make-up. And her family of origin. And Barbie. And Pop Tarts. And most of all weddings and diamonds. She does love her own smug superiority complex, so if that's your thing, you may like her.

Then there is the horrible sections that I would title "Tenth grade research paper on DeBeer's Advertising". And don't doubt my authority there, I taught tenth grade English for many years and read many a tenth grade research paper. Long sections of the book read exactly like them. The bad ones, anyway.

Do not waste your time. And definitely not your money. I'm just happy it was from the library.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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