Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Engagements - J. Courtney Sullivan

The Engagements
The Engagements marks the third J. Courtney Sullivan book I have read. I read Commencement in April 2013 and Maine just a few months later. 

I mentioned at the time that, though each book seems categorized by publishers as chick fit or women's fiction, they seemed to fall closer to general fiction. (Soapbox Sidebar: Women's fiction shouldn't even be a thing - at least not in its current state.). Sullivan's characters were strong and complex, if held together by less robust plots. Unfortunately, this third novel deserves its genre classification.

The Engagements can qualify as nothing other than chick lit. There is no getting around it. It's a beach read through and through, which, suspecting as much, is exactly why I took it with us to Aruba earlier this summer and read it poolside. 

Sullivan retains her classic approach: multiple characters each telling his or her (surprisingly, there is one male perspective woven into this book) own story through chapters written from his or her perspective. This story, though, rather than relaying the complexities of friendship or family follows the story and tradition of engagement rings, one in particular.

As in previous books, Sullivan does tackle some more complex issues. In this case: infidelity, financial struggles and supporting a family, gay marriage, living as an expat, and gender roles in the workplace, among others. I appreciate that she is willing to tackle some of those storylines, even in a lighter read. Still, I was more impressed with her handling of them in her earlier books. Here, they seemed more trite, likely due to the overall tone of the book.

The big theme is definitely family. While the idea of rings and diamonds ties them all together, the book is one about family and its different manifestations and difficulties. It can be a bit hard to see past the glare of the diamonds, but it's definitely there.

Sullivan definitely does have skill as a writer. She has some great lines throughout the book, my favorite being, "she feared that she'd give birth to a child who disliked reading. It would be like giving birth to a foreign species." That is my fear, too! I appreciated moments and words like those throughout the book, particularly because they brought me back to Sullivan's earlier novels and gave this one a bit more weight.

Overall, as I said, a perfect summer read. There is more real content than in plenty of books of this type, but if you are looking for something that takes yet another step down the line between chick lit and more serious literature (don't hate me for drawing that line, chick lit fans), then I would recommend trying one of Sullivan's other books instead. If you want a fun read, stick with The Engagements.

Pages: 400
Date Completed: June 1, 2014

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