“Frances closed her eyes for a moment. She should sleep some, or else she’d look a fright at the morning meeting. But what about the signature line? She arranged a handful of magazines in the shape of a fan on the floor, all open to her ads.
In Vogue: Your diamonds glow with loveliness at every wearing. Theirs is a timeless charm transcending every change in fashion.
In Collier’s: Wear your diamonds as the night wears its stars, ever and always…for their beauty is as timeless.
In Life: In the engagement diamond on her finger, the memories will shine forever.
She had clearly long been surfeited by this idea of permanence. She closed her eyes and said, “Dear God, send me a line.”
Frances scribbled something on a scrap of paper, taking it to bed with her and placing it on the nightstand. She lay down fully dressed without getting under the covers, and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.”
From the Publisher:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Commencement and Maine comes a gorgeous, sprawling novel about marriage—about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.
Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years—forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love—the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding—beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings—and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own.
As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.
A rich, layered, exhilarating novel spanning nearly a hundred years, The Engagements captures four wholly unique marriages, while tracing the story of diamonds in America, and the way—for better or for worse—these glittering stones have come to symbolize our deepest hopes for everlasting love.
I became acquainted with J. Courtney Sullivan’s work through Maine, a novel about a dysfunctional, Irish, Catholic family whose matriarch is nearing death and wishes to sell the family seaside property. Foremost, I enjoyed Sullivan’s rich and layered characterization, and because of my appreciation of her writing style, and the multi-period plot, I was eager to read her new novel, The Engagements.
As a writer and a reader, I am drawn to fiction that explores the connection between places and times, and Sullivan’s use of the diamond advertising campaign that continues to influence world nuptial culture to unite the stories is brilliant. Sullivan also captures the controversies and current events of each decade, and presents all of her characters as flawed, authentic representations that seem real enough to step off the pages.
Fans of J. Courtney Sullivan’s earlier novels, and readers of family drama and period novels will find much to enjoy on the pages of The Engagements. In addition to its fascinating coverage of the history of diamonds as the symbol of marriage in many parts of the world, the novel is a moving portrait of real people doing the best they can in love and in life.
I had the pleasure of attending J. Courtney Sullivan’s reading in Washington DC last week, and I have one signed copy of the novel to give away. To enter, please leave a comment below about your favorite Sullivan novel (or which you most wish to read), and spread the word on social media. A random winner will be selected on Thursday, July 25th.