“A Diamond is Forever” has become one of those advertising slogans that gets burned into a young American’s brain forever. I know just one person who got engaged without a diamond ring and I suspect most people do think that diamond engagement rings were always the standard. Not so – certainly not until Mary Frances Gerety penned those four lines and Ayer built an advertising campaign around engagement. In The Engagements, Sullivan takes a few wildly different relationships from the 1960s to the present day and explores love, with and without diamond rings, throughout the last fifty years.
I had really high expectations for this book when I started it and I’m pleased to say it met all of them. I liked the many different perspectives on love, and particularly the focus on how little an engagement ring really means. A diamond may last forever, but it’s the couple that gives it meaning. Some of these couples do, and some of them don’t, but all of them have interesting, engaging stories that emerge believably from Sullivan’s pen. As she cycles between characters, she accomplished an amazing feat for me – I liked all of the different eras. I was interested in the outcome of all of the marriages.
I also just liked seeing how different each of the relationships was. One of the couples has been together for years, and it’s their son who is having the difficulty with his marriage. Another of the characters has left her husband for a whirlwind engagement, while a third adores his wife but can’t afford the diamond he believes she deserves. And one of the characters in Frances Gerety herself, who despite writing such a line, never married. Instead, she remained a “career woman” and remained at Ayer throughout her working life. It’s a window into a different world, as she’s a single woman with a steady, surprisingly typical office job, in contrast to the numerous other relationships in the book. Plus, we get an idea of how advertising works, and how these companies managed to completely change perceptions in a way that has lasted decades. Ayer doesn’t even exist now but people are still buying diamond engagement rings.
While there are a number of failed relationships, Sullivan doesn’t shy away from the successful ones, so this book isn’t at all depressing. Instead I found it uplifting, sweet, and thoughtful, with a measure of gravity; every relationship is different and has its own meaning and its own outcome. I loved the way that, in the end, all of the relationships were tied together and very cleverly so.
The Engagements is a fantastic book, a great story of a little period of history and how much relationships have changed throughout. Highly recommended.
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