This book is: entertaining.
Other elements: jewelry, marriage, advertising, engagement rings, relationships, diamond rings.
Read it: if you love jewelry or books about relationships.
Overall rating: 7.75/10
This book by J. Courtney Sullivan is an iteration of the technique where a book follows a number of different stories that turn out to be linked in the end – has anyone invented a term for that yet? In this novel, rather than everyone turning out to be related, the characters all turn out to be linked by a certain antique diamond ring. (I bet you can imagine how much I liked that.) The excepetion is the first storyline we’re introduced to, which follows the life of Frances Gerety, the advertising copywriter responsible for penning marriage’s most famous tagline, “A Diamond is Forever.”
The Engagements sounds like it has the potential to go saccharine, like a novelized version of several people’s wedding Pinterest boards, but it’s not like that at all. This book doesn’t do simple happy endings. There’s happiness, but it’s fraught with unexpected tragedy, money troubles, rotting ceilings, and arguments, just like real life. It really makes you think: if advertising had such a strong hand in the traditions of marriage and engagement rings what does it really all mean? I found that this question sparked some interesting conversations in my own life, and I thought things through and talked it out with family and friends.
Parts of this book are stronger than others. The characters occasionally verge on cliche, as do the plotlines. At one point, the characters from two stories interact. The reader discovers that the two families are related, which was previously disguised with nicknames. I had to put the book down and concentrate for several minutes before I figured out who was who and what was going on.
This would be an ideal book for summer reading, especially for someone fascinated with jewelery or interested in the commercial history of the modern diamond engagement ring.
The ring sounds quite fabulous; described as an Edwardian or Victorian bypass ring with two large diamonds accented by smaller diamonds in a foliate motif. Obviously I had to try to find a doppelganger.
Contestant #1 is an Edwardian diamond crossover ring. It’s platinum-topped 18kt gold and the two old European cut diamonds are approximately 1.0 ct in total. This make them smaller than the ring in the book – the author specifies that each of the two large stones in that ring are over a carat. – but it has the bypass style and the foliate look.
Circa 1900, possible ring #2 is a little bit older than its predecessor. This antique crossover ring’s main diamonds total approx. 1.30 carats so it;’s also a little too small, but it’s more the shape that I was picturing for this book’s jewelry protagonist.
I think this beauty’s the closest. It’s Edwardian, from the early 1900’s. It has foliate (leaflike) elements about the accent diamonds and it features two stones, one of which is over 1 carart and the other of which is close. The only thing that’s off is that I believe the ring in the book had round diamonds, and it definitely had more diagonal elements than this one.**
** Update: I actually had the chance to ask J. Courtney Sullivan about the ring she imagined while writing the book, and she confirms that number 2, the Edwardian beauty just above, is a dead ringer.
My thanks to Knopf for providing me with a copy of this book for review.