The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

Published: 2013

Genre: fiction

Length: 383 pages

Setting: The U.S. in 1947, 1972, 1987, 2003, and 2012

Interest: It was recommended to me by The Modern Mrs. Darcy based on some books I said I enjoyed.

Summary: We follow five different stories that are tied together by a diamond ring. The 1947 focuses on Frances, an employee of the Ayers advertising agency. She is tasked by De Beers to create a diamond engagement ring tradition, and we follow her through time as the market changes. (All of the other stories show a short slice of time.) The 1972 story is about Evelyn and Gerald, who have been married for many years. Their son, Teddy, is divorcing his wife to marry another woman at a time when divorce rarely happened. The 1987 story is about James and Sheila. James is an EMT and trying his hardest to keep his head above water, but barely succeeding. The 2003 story is about P.J., a virtuoso violinist. P.J. convinces Delphine to break off her marriage and come to NYC to live with him. Finally, the 2012 story is about the marriage of Toby and Jeff and the ambivalence of their best friend Kate in helping them prepare for their wedding.

Final thoughts: I loved how all the stories (except Frances’ story, which was outside of each part) were tied together by a diamond engagement ring. The reader doesn’t know that until the very last part, although I was looking for connections between the stories. It kind of reminded me of The Hours, with several stories that seem to be unrelated but have a connection that is laid out at the very end of the story. There is a great reveal at the end, but I almost want to know the connection from the beginning so I can see all Easter eggs that tie the stories together. Definitely a book that would benefit from a second read.

My favorite stories were those of Frances and Kate, both somewhat rebellious for their time. It’s hard to believe diamonds were not the traditional engagement stone before WWII. The advertising agencies have done their work well because I thought that’s how it always was. But no – it’s a completely constructed market that people buy into totally. I’m almost glad I don’t have a diamond in my engagement ring, even if the choice was made because we didn’t have enough money for a diamond at the time. I empathized with Kate’s story. No one could understand not wanting to get married and her family was completely unsupportive of pretty much all her life’s decisions. I’m also with Kate in that weddings have gone completely over the top and excessive.

Title comes from: The theme of the book – marriage and diamonds.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 22/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and an E in my Alphabet Soup Title Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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