When I started reading some light summer “beach books” I noticed a trend in several focusing on marriage and weddings. Romance, struggles, expectations, disappointments, revelations, personal journeys, and of course – ultimately – happy endings (well, at least mostly…).
A Diamond is Forever. The famous advertising line penned by Frances Gerety, a young copywriter working on the DeBeers campaign in 1947. This novel spans nearly a century, looking at marriage and love from multiple angles as it changes over the decades, while following the story of diamonds, and the genius behind their advertising.
Evelyn has been married to the same man for forty years, after losing her first husband suddenly and devastatingly. Now she is facing the end of her own son’s marriage, causing her to reflect on both of hers.
Delphine left her steady older husband in France to pursue passion with a younger man, a violinist, in New York. Now that he has betrayed her she seeks revenge while examining both of her relationships.
James is a paramedic working the night shift, while he and his wife Sheila struggle to make ends meet. He knows that her parents think she could’ve done better, and is looking for ways to make things better for the love of his life.
Kate and Dan have lived together for a decade, own a home together, and have a child together. But Kate is dead set against marriage and weddings. As she prepares for the wedding of her cousin she examines her motives quietly while trying to be supportive of an event she cannot condone.
Not only does the novel follow the ins and outs of these various relationships and marriages, it follows the story of the brains behind American diamond advertising for decades, while ultimately following the story of one particular diamond.
The changing points of view in each chapter were not distracting, but came together almost as a series of short stories, making for a fun and quick read. Some of the interconnections were surprising as they were revealed, yet another instance of a book this summer showing how our separateness is truly an illusion (see my review of The Illusion of Separateness) but in a lighter novel, great for a weekend on the deck or a day at the beach.
Title: The Engagements
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Publication: Knopf, June 2013
When Jenna’s mother passed away she left her The Notebook, instructions, reflections, and thoughts for every aspect of her youngest daughter’s wedding day. Now the wedding weekend has arrived, Jenna and Stuart should be blissfully happy, but as their guests arrive on Nantucket things begin to fall apart.
Margot, Jenna’s sister and her matron-of-honor, is divorced and having a secret affair with her father’s business partner, consistent in her warnings to Jenna that marriage is a bad idea and that love never lasts. One of the bridesmaids sleeps around indiscriminately, including with one of the groomsmen, while another seems suspiciously close to Jenna’s playboy brother in the face of her own marital difficulties. Jenna’s dad is struggling in his recent remarriage, very much still in love with and mourning his late wife. To make things even more awkward, Stuart’s parents are on their second marriage to one another. The woman he married and had a child with in-between his marriages to Stuart’s mother is coming to the wedding as well, and she’s not coming quietly. Throw in threats of rain, a pesky tree branch, obstinate children, and a bride threatening to call off the wedding, and there is never a dull moment.
Ultimately, as the novel examines what makes a relationship work, and the meaning of love and commitment, everyone will end up where they belong, even if it is not where they thought they should be going. Hilderbrand’s writing always makes me want to hop a ferry to the island, to spend a week with my toes in the sand, eating lobster, and getting sunburned! Another fun quick read to throw in your beach bag!
Title: Beautiful Day
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Publication: Reagan Arthur Books, June 2013