Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Engagements (by J. Courtney Sullivan)

Bought this based on a rave review in Entertainment Weekly, a source I apparently really trust since I did the same thing with The Miniaturist. I unreservedly loved this one!

This is four interlocked (very loosely interlocked) stories on the theme of marriage spanning many decades, starting with the story of Frances Gerety, the real-life copywriter who wrote the slogan "A Diamond Is Forever" and never married. Four other stories of marriage are interspersed with the story of Frances's professional career, and the novel also includes memos about diamond advertising (the slogan, the "four C's," the two-months salary thing... all the ways in which we've been so cleverly suckered).

Evelyn is a happily married woman with a romantically tragic past whose son is on the brink of divorce; Delphine has left her husband in France for a brilliant American violinist; James is an EMT on a 24-hour shift who can't provide for his family the way he thinks he should; Kate is a liberal who hates the idea of marriage and the diamond industry (and is kind of a pill, which is fun) but who supports her cousin (finally legally able to get married) on his wedding day.

I enjoyed all of these stories roughly equally, and all of them felt well-researched and fully inhabited, spanning time and class and profession and gender and age. It isn't a David Mitchell style tour de force, but it's a really solid, very enjoyable piece of literary fiction, excellently crafted, and one of my favorite reads of this year.

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