For women of a certain age it does seem that diamonds are shoved in your face from every angle. It’s the thing you’re supposed to want most from a man, the thing you aspire to buy for yourself, the things that should be passed from mother to daughter, grandmother to grandson to new bride. If you are anything like me (ie: fall into the key demographic for the diamond engagement ring) they pop up in Google and Facebook ads on the daily. They are everywhere, a symbol of status from where and how it’s worn to how big, how it’s set and how perfect it is. The subject of many a song, tag line and catchphrase, diamonds are FOREVER!
Book# 23- The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan
Synopsis: Meet Frances Gerety: a young advertising copywriter in 1947 working on the De Beers campaign. A young woman in mans world. All she needs is a signature line, but she has procrastinated as usual so, on the night before her meeting as she falls into bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.
Evelyn has been married to her second husband for 40 years, and is now dealing with the breakdown of her son’s marriage to the best daughter-in-law she could have hoped for. Delphine has been married for 10 years to the same rather predictable man, and has left him to run away with a 24 year-old violin prodigy. James is a paramedic up to his eyeballs in debt with two kids and a wife who probably believes she could have married better. And Kate is partnered with Dan, not married, because after having been to every imaginable wedding, seen every kind of bride and heard horror stories about diamond trade, the only vow she ever made was not to get married.
Their stories are layered together across time, families and cities. Linked by diamonds in truly unique ways, all because Frances worked her entire career to create the perception that diamonds symbolize everlasting love.
My Impressions: After struggling to follow all of the stories for the first part of the book, the jumping around slowed a little and I was able to invest in the characters and their stories and really enjoy the book. The underlying theme of diamond and diamond sales was a very interesting one. I appreciated a narrative based on a real person and true events. And I liked that Frances was a bit of a trailblazer for independent women in the workforce. Each of the women in the book were a caricature of the time period they were set in; representing a specific kind of woman, a relatable set of circumstances, familiar choices. And while each are uniquely different, if put together in a room they’d likely find an understanding of each other.
If I were to pick a favorite, I think Frances was the most enjoyable story line, just because of her strong sense of self, followed by Evelyn ,then Kate, then Delphine, then James/Shelia. I enjoyed the historical story lines more, because the characters had a stronger point of view and more forceful personalities, where the later characters are a little more subdued and passive. Their feelings about diamonds are each unique. For Frances, they are her bread and butter, for Evelyn, it’s a representation of her first and second husband and her life with them. For James, the diamond is a symbol of everything he doesn’t have, for Delphine, it’s a symbol of the life she chose and left behind and for Kate, it’s a representation of everything she loathes about the tradition of marriage.
“Time rolls on, And youth is gone, And you can’t straighten up when you bend. But stiff back, Or stiff knees,You stand straight at Tiffany’s. But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”- Marilyn Monroe
Why you should read it: This was a unique take on the chick-lit genre, even if it does make me feel a little like a target for marketing and nosey questioning (When are YOU getting married?) I think it would make a great beach read for anyone taking a warm weather vacation this spring!
Read if you liked: The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult), Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Fannie Flagg), Chasing Harry Winston (Lauren Weisberger)
Book #23 in the Bag!
“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” ― Philip Pullman