If you were curious about when and how the diamond engagement ring came into fashion, J. Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel The Engagements will give you an idea. Life long bachelorette Frances Getty dreamed up the famous marketing line “Diamonds on Forever” in 1947, never knowing the impact it could and would have on romance, marriage and sales of diamonds.
Woven into the story of Getty are five relationships and the impact that a single diamond ring can have on them. At first, the connection between these five relationships isn’t clear, but Sullivan deftly weaves together her various plot threads until the final tapestry is revealed in the novel’s last fifty pages.
Each of the relationships is at a different point, with various parties having a differing view on the diamond ring and what it symbolizes. For some it represents a feeling of being trapped, for others its a potential road to freedom and for others it’s something that isn’t wanted or need and is viewed with a bit of contempt.
What makes The Engagements works so well is the rich characters. There are some you will like more than others, but Sullivan gives the reader ample insight into their motivations and thoughts to help us understand where they are and their feelings on marriage. From the mother who is horrified at her son’s impending divorce and its implication to the woman who sees marriage as outdated and unnecessary, much to the horror and chagrin of various family members, all of these characters feel authentic.
The one downfall of the novel is a plot thread involving a lost wedding ring that seems to have been lifted out of a variety of sitcoms. In a novel where so much else rings true, this one doesn’t work as well as it was intended.
But it’s a minor quibble in what is, otherwise, a stellar novel.