Book Review: The Engagements – J. Courtney Sullivan

Title: The Engagements
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
ISBN: 9780307958716
Pages: 400
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Frances Gerety, one of the few female ad copywriters in 1947, writes the tagline “A Diamond is Forever” for DeBeers on a whim. She doesn’t know it then, but this simple, grammatically incorrect sentence comes to define diamonds, as they symbolize love and hope for generations to come.


The Engagements is a gorgeously written novel about many different couples across the span of many of years. The one thing that brings them together, that they have in common, are diamonds. Sullivan includes some diamond history in this novel, and it’s simply fascinating. She traces the De Beers company into modern times, telling the story about how diamonds came to be cultural status symbols. It’s so interesting to see how the De Beers company engineered the diamond ring as a symbol of love and forever through its advertising.

Through Frances Gerety, Sullivan also examines the politics of gender relations in the workplace. Frances is an exceptionally talented copywriter in The Engagements, but because she’s a woman, she must constantly deal with her secondary status. Indeed, the novel examines the plight of many different women over the span of many years. One who jumped out to me was Kate, who has no desire to get married. She turns her back on the convention of marriage, not understanding why others so badly want to be married. While her sense of self-righteousness can be grating at times, it’s interesting to compare her views on marriage and diamonds with others in the novel.

There are many different characters in The Engagements, and readers will become personally involved in each of their storylines. Sullivan does an excellent job pulling you in and making sure you’re emotionally connected to the story she’s telling. Though the sheer number of characters might make it feel as though this novel is difficult to keep up with, it’s a testament to Sullivan’s writing talent that it flows so smoothly. There’s not a jarring transition to be had in this novel, and readers will become invested in these characters as they learn how they’re connected.

Novels like The Engagements are difficult to do justice to with reviews simply because they are so complex. There’s a lot going on in this novel; the story is exquisitely written and the characters are intricately developed. When the last pages are turned, the reader will feel a sense of loss, knowing they will likely never connect with these characters again. It’s a beautiful novel from beginning to end, with so many issues and thought-provoking scenes, and it will leave readers reflecting on their own thoughts on diamonds and how they pervade contemporary culture.

Other books by J. Courtney Sullivan:


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  1. Glad you enjoyed this so much! I have it for review and I’ve been really looking forward to it.

  2. Glad you enjoyed this so much! I have it for review and I’ve been really looking forward to it.

  3. She’s a terrific writer and I look forward to reading this new book, too.

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