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The Engagements Paperback – 2 Jan 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (2 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844089371
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844089376
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 380,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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 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) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A diamond is forever. But forever isn't for everyone . . .

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By Roman Clodia TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The framing device of this novel is a good one: in 1947, Mary Frances Gerety, a young, single, female copywriter in a New York ad agency coined a phrase on behalf of the De Beers diamond monopoly: ‘A Diamond is Forever’ – and created a capitalist tradition which tells us that romantic love has to be expressed and displayed through an expensive piece of jewellery. That Frances herself never bought into the dream she helped create is an irony not lost in this book: ‘Frances wasn’t sure a diamond was any more valuable than any other gem, but once she started writing it, it became a fact.’

So this starts out as a nice deconstruction of advertising as capitalist propaganda, and gently exposes the way in which our personal dreams and fears are shaped by, and given emotional currency through, the needs of big business.

But after hooking us into Frances’ story, this book then wanders off into a series of different tales, widely separated by time and given to us in fragmented sections, all of which failed to hold my interest. All the stories are linked through the idea of marriage whether it’s the breakdown and divorce, or the setting up of a wedding – and they’re all fairly pedestrian (‘Sheila’s parents had loaned them the money for the mould removal. She said they probably didn’t expect to be paid back’ – yawn...).

This is a long book at 460 pages and tends to lack the incision of the opening episode. So there’s a really good idea here, and I liked Frances’ story (a little like Peggy from Mad Men) – but the body of the book is overwhelmingly dull and lacklustre. This could have been a much stronger book with some tight editing and circumspect pruning – at the moment all the good stuff feels muffled beneath a lot of tedium. A book of wasted potential.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"A Diamond is Forever" has become one of those advertising slogans that gets burned into a young American's brain forever. I know just one person who got engaged without a diamond ring and I suspect most people do think that diamond engagement rings were always the standard. Not so - certainly not until Mary Frances Gerety penned those four lines and Ayer built an advertising campaign around engagement. In The Engagements, Sullivan takes a few wildly different relationships from the 1960s to the present day and explores love, with and without diamond rings, throughout the last fifty years.

I had really high expectations for this book when I started it and I'm pleased to say it met all of them. I liked the many different perspectives on love, and particularly the focus on how little an engagement ring really means. A diamond may last forever, but it's the couple that gives it meaning. Some of these couples do, and some of them don't, but all of them have interesting, engaging stories that emerge believably from Sullivan's pen. As she cycles between characters, she accomplished an amazing feat for me - I liked all of the different eras. I was interested in the outcome of all of the marriages.

I also just liked seeing how different each of the relationships was. One of the couples has been together for years, and it's their son who is having the difficulty with his marriage. Another of the characters has left her husband for a whirlwind engagement, while a third adores his wife but can't afford the diamond he believes she deserves. And one of the characters in Frances Gerety herself, who despite writing such a line, never married. Instead, she remained a "career woman" and remained at Ayer throughout her working life.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Engagements, as you have probably already guessed, is a novel which focuses on engagements and marriage. Five separate characters - Frances, Evelyn, Delphine, Kate and James - tell the story of relationships and marriages in several different decades of the twenty and twenty-first centuries. Many authors, especially those who particularly appeal to a female audience, take a similar approach in terms of multiple characters with separate storylines and sometimes when I read novels in that style, I find that the characters start to merge and become rather `samey'. However, The Engagements is a highly engrossing read and J. Courtney Sullivan weaves a fascinating subject into the fabric of her novel: the way in which diamonds have become an essential ingredient in the western world's view of an ideal engagement and marriage.

One of the characters in the novel, Frances Gerety, is based on the real-life Frances Gerety who, working as young copywriter for De Beers in the late 1940s, coined the world-famous slogan, "A Diamond is Forever". During the time of the Great Depression, diamonds weren't popular. In fact, as J. Courtney Sullivan writes in a New York Times article, "How Americans Learned to Love Diamonds", most Americans viewed diamonds as an extravagance which only the richest people could afford. It is quite astonishing to realize the enormous power that marketing has over us and the fact that it was advertising which entrenched the diamond engagement ring in our society. The analysis of this enthralling topic, along with engaging (no pun intended!) characters, has resulted in this readable and very absorbing novel.
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