Friday 2 August 2013

Th Engagements by J Courtney Sullivan

1947 : Mary Frances Gerety, a young copywriter in an eminent advertising agency, has to convince the world of tow things - that marriage means a diamond ring on every woman's finger, and that she is as good at her job as any man.  And then, in one moment of brilliant inspiration, Mary Frances writes down four words which will achieve both her aims ....
Moving from a Harvard swim-meet in 1927 to the three-martini lunches of 1940s advertising, from the back streets of 1980s Boston to an exquisite Parisian music shop in 2003, The Engagements is a novel about love, marriage, commitment and betrayal; it is as sharp, as fiery and as beautiful as the stone we have taken to represent our dreams.

I haven't read any of J Courtney Sullivan's other novels and was really not sure what to expect when The Engagements dropped through my letterbox.   I found it quite an interesting read, the characterisation is excellent and I did like the idea of interweaving different stories together to produce the main plot.  However, there were times when I felt my mind wandering, and to be honest, I did find the character of Mary Frances somewhat hard to engage with.   Despite this, I do feel that the subject matter is fascinating, and I was especially interested in how a woman who was not married, and not really interested in marriage, could sell the idea of diamond engagement rings to a whole generation of women.

I enjoyed the other stories that link to the main plot,although there were characters that I liked better than others,  in much the same way as a reader usually enjoys one or two stories in a collection.

The Engagements gives the reader a lot to think about.  It's about love and relationships and the power of advertising.  It considers the role of women in professional situations, and the change in culture over the years.

The Engagements was published in hardback by Virago (Little Brown) on 4 July, the paperback will be published early in 2014.    My thanks go to Emily Burns from the publisher for providing my review copy of The Engagements.

J Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement and Maine.  Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure and the New York Observer, among others.  She is a contributor to the essay anthology The Secret Currency of Love and co-editor of Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

For more information about J Courtney Sullivan, visit her website, her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter

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