The Engagements chronicles the relationships of several different couples – some married, some not – but all are connected in a way that readers are meant to construe as clever, but probably will not.
The interconnected-story-lines-motif has been done and redone, and Sullivan doesn’t bring anything particularly new or insightful to the table. The one plot that is fairly interesting is that of Frances Gerety. Gerety was the actual woman who created the “a diamond is forever” slogan, a game-changer for the diamond industry. Apparently, the concept of an engagement ring is a fairly new one. In fact, up until Gerety coined the phrase in 1947, the idea of an engagement ring didn’t even exist. Gerety’s work on the DeBeers campaign helped to generate a need for something that there is no need for, which is what advertising is all about (I know this from watching Mad Men).
Sullivan should have written one of those trendy historical-fiction books solely about Gerety and called it The Diamond’s Mistress or The [insert father’s profession here]’s Daughter. But no. Instead, Sullivan tossed in the tales of various couples that are neither interesting or rewarding. They detract from Gerety’s story. One in particular was the story of Kate and Dan. The Kate-and-Dan thread serves no function other than to make readers angry. Kate refuses to marry Dan because she is against the institution of marriage. She refuses to feed their daughter Pop-Tarts because of the preservatives. She refuses to support the diamond industry because I guess she watched Blood Diamond and fancies herself an expert. I get what Sullivan was trying to do – to express these viewpoints, she created a character that embodied all of them. Kate, however, is impossible to like. She is against so many things, and she hates the people who support them, yet gets angry when they don’t support her. And the Pop-Tart thing really tore me up, those breakfast pastries are a national treasure.
Read a biography on Frances Gerety. The Engagements is a pretentious, long-winded waste of time.