Commencement

Commencement

by J. Courtney Sullivan

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Overview

The bestselling author of Maine brings us a sparkling tale of friendship and a fascinating portrait of the first generation of women who have all the opportunities in the world, but no clear idea about what to choose.
 
Assigned to the same dorm their first year at Smith College, Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn’t have less in common. Celia, a lapsed Catholic, arrives with a bottle of vodka in her suitcase; beautiful Bree pines for the fiancé she left behind in Savannah; Sally, preppy and obsessively neat, is reeling from the loss of her mother; and April, a radical, redheaded feminist wearing a “Riot: Don’t Diet” T-shirt, wants a room transfer immediately. Written with radiant style and a wicked sense of humor, Commencement follows these unlikely friends through college and the years beyond, brilliantly capturing the complicated landscape facing young women today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307454966
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/11/2010
Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 259,350
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.89(d)

About the Author

J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Engagements and Maine. Maine was named a 2011 Time magazine Best Book of the Year and a Washington Post Notable Book. The Engagements was one of People Magazine's Top Ten Books of 2013 and an Irish Times Best Book of the Year, and has been translated into seventeen languages. She has contributed to The New York Times Book Review, the Chicago TribuneNew York magazine, ElleGlamourAllureReal Simple, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among many other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Sullivan: COMMENCEMENT

Part One

SMITH ALUMNAE QUARTERLY
Spring 2006 Class Notes

CLASS OF ’02

Robin Hughes graduates from Northwestern this May with a master’s in public health. She lives in Chicago with fellow Hopkins House alum Gretchen (Gretch) Anderson . . . Natalie Goldberg (Emerson House) and her partner Gina Black (class of ’99) have finally realized their dream of moving to Finland and opening a karaoke bar! So far, they say, Emersonians Emma Bramley-Hawke and Joy Watkins have already stopped in for several verses of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. . . After four years of working in a health clinic in her native Malaysia, Jia-Yi Moa has been accepted to NYU Medical School! . . . And now, news from my own darling group of girls: Sally Werner, who works as a researcher in a medical lab at Harvard, is getting married (on the Smith campus!) this May to longtime boyfriend Jake Brown. Fellow King House alums Bree Miller (Stanford Law ’05), April Adams (intrepid research assistant for Women in Peril, Inc.), and yours truly will be serving as bridesmaids. Look out for the embarrassing drunken photos in the next issue. Until then, happy spring to all and keep sending me those updates.

Your class secretary,

Celia Donnelly(celiad@alumnae.smith.edu)



Celia

Celia woke with a gasp.

Her head was throbbing, her throat was dry, and it was already nine o’clock. She was late for Sally’s wedding or, at least, for the bus that would take her there. She silently cursed herself for going out the night before. What the hell kind of a bridesmaid showed up late to the wedding of a dear friend, and hungover at that?

Sun streamed through the windows of her little alcove studio. From her spot in bed, Celia could see two beer bottles and an open bag of tortilla chips on the coffee table by the couch, and, oh Jesus, there was a condom wrapper on the floor. Well then, that answered that.

The guy lying next to her was named either Brian or Ryan; that much she remembered. Everything else was a bit of a blur. She vaguely recollected kissing him on the front stoop of her building, fumbling for the keys, his hand already moving up her leg and under her skirt. She did not recall having sex or, for that matter, eating tortilla chips.

She was lucky not to have been chopped up into little bits. Her sober self needed to somehow get the message to her drunk self that it was entirely unadvisable to bring strange men home. You saw it in the papers all the time—They met at a party, he asked her to go for a stroll, two days later the police found her torso in a dumpster in Queens. She wished that casual sex wasn’t so intimately connected to the possibility of being murdered, but there you had it.

Celia leaned toward him now and kissed his cheek, trying to affect an air of calm.

“I’ve got to leave soon,” she said softly. “Do you want to hop in the shower?”

He shook his head. “I don’t have to go into the office today,” he said. “Got a golf date with some clients this afternoon. Mind if I sleep in?”

“Umm, no,” she said. “That’s fine.”

Celia looked him over. Blond hair, perfect skin, chiseled arms, dimples. He was cute, suspiciously cute. Too attractive for his own good, as her mother would say.

Before she left, she kissed him again. “The door will lock automatically behind you. And there’s coffee on the counter if you want it.”

“Thanks,” he said. “So I’ll call you?”

“Good. Well, see you later, then.”

From his tone, she figured the odds of his actually calling were about fifty-fifty, not bad for a drunken hookup.

Celia headed toward the subway. Was it weird that he had asked to stay in her apartment? Should she have demanded that he leave with her? He looked clean-cut, and he said he worked in finance. He didn’t seem like the type who would go home with a girl just to rob her, but what did she really know about him anyway? Celia was twenty-six years old. Now into what she considered her late twenties, she had begun compiling a mental inventory of men she should not sleep with. As she stepped onto the A train, she added Guys who might be suspected of stealing my belongings to the list.

Twenty minutes later, she was sprinting through Port Authority, praying for the bus to be five minutes late. Just five extra minutes, that was all she needed.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women,” she muttered. “Come on, come on.”

It was a habit of hers, a remnant of a time when she actually believed in God and would say a Hail Mary whenever she was in trouble. Celia realized now that what she had once thought of as prayers were in fact just wishes. She didn’t expect the Virgin to actually do anything—even if she did exist, she probably wouldn’t be in the business of controlling buses running express from Manhattan to Northampton, Mass. All the same, the familiar words calmed Celia down. She tried to use them sparingly so as not to offend the Mother of God, a woman she didn’t believe in, but even so.

Her mother revered the Virgin Mary, saying the rosary in her car on the way to work each morning, keeping a statue of the Madonna in the front garden for years, until a Presbyterian family moved in across the street (not wanting to offend them, she dug up the statue and put it out back). She believed that Mary had all the power, that Jesus was secondary to her, because he had come from her womb. Celia often marveled at how her mother was perhaps the only person on earth to perceive Catholicism as matriarchal.

She reached the gate just as the bus driver was collecting the last of the tickets and closing the door.

“Wait!” she shouted. “Wait! Please!”

The driver looked up in sleepy-eyed surprise. She hoped he wasn’t as hungover as she was.

“Please! I have to get on that bus!” she said.

“Hurry up, then,” he said. “There’s one seat left.”

It wasn’t like Celia to draw attention to herself in public, but the thought of Sally’s disappointment if she had to call and say she was running late was just too much to bear. Besides, Celia had been looking forward to this weekend for months. She did not want to miss a moment with the girls.

She pushed through the aisle, past mothers bouncing crying babies on their laps, teenagers with their headphones blaring, and twenty-somethings having loud cell phone conversations about insanely private matters. Bringing new meaning to hell on wheels, that ought to be Greyhound’s slogan. She was desperate for more coffee and as much Advil as she could take without killing herself.

Despite the four-and-a-half-hour bus ride that lay ahead, Celia smiled. Soon she would be with them again—Sally, impeccable and impulsive, a twenty-five-year-old millionaire in a thrift-store wedding gown; April, brave and opinionated, with that sometimes reckless air that worried them all; and Bree, beautiful and bright eyed and mired in a doomed love affair—she was still Celia’s favorite, despite all the changes and distance between them.

Celia sat down beside a pimply teenager reading a comic book. She closed her eyes and breathed in deep.

Eight years earlier, on Orientation Day, Celia wept in the backseat of her father’s Lincoln Town Car all the way out to Smith. The family had to pull over in a Taco Bell parking lot so she could get herself together before meeting her housemates. By the time she arrived at the front door of Franklin King House, she was fixed with a big fake smile and half a tube of her sister’s Maybelline concealer. (Celia had always prided herself on being a girl who didn’t wear makeup, but she realized at that moment that she did in fact apply powder and mascara and eye shadow most mornings, she just never bought any of it herself.) She held back tears for hours as they carried boxes upstairs and mingled with other new students and their families on the lawn of the science quad. Then, at last, it was time for the family to go, and there was an embarrassing, agonizing moment in which the four of them—Celia, Violet, and their parents—stood in a circle and embraced, everyone crying except for Violet, who was fifteen and eager to get back home in time to see her boyfriend’s ska band play at the Knights of Columbus Hall. (The band was called For Christ’s Sake, and Celia’s mother thought they were a Christian rock group. She didn’t know that the last word was pronounced with an emphasis on the e, like the Japanese wine.)

After they left, Celia cried until she felt as hollow as a jack-o’-lantern. College had snuck up on her, and unlike so many of her friends, who had been dying to leave home, Celia liked her life just fine as it was. She couldn’t imagine going to sleep at night without first creeping into her parents’ room, curling up with the dogs at the foot of their bed as her father watched Letterman and her mother read some trashy novel. She couldn’t picture herself sharing a bathroom with anyone but Violet—you couldn’t yell at a dorm mate for using up all the hot water the way you could your sister. You couldn’t squeeze your blackheads in front of the mirror, wrapped in a towel and dripping wet from a shower while she sat on the edge of the tub and clipped her toenails.

At Smith, Celia worried that she would never again feel truly comfortable.

Along with a month’s worth of groceries for a family of five, her mother had given her a prayer card with a picture of the Virgin printed on the front and her great-grandmother’s golden wall cross.

“You know this isn’t a convent, right?” her father teased his wife.

After a lifetime of Catholic school, Celia considered herself an atheist, but she was still terrified to throw these things in the trash—it seemed like a surefire way to get struck by lightning. Instead, she shoved them in the back of her top drawer and covered them over with underwear and socks.

Celia pulled two bottles of vodka from her suitcase, where they lay wrapped in a Snoopy bath towel that she’d had since she was eight. As she placed them in her mini-fridge, she realized with some delight that she didn’t have to hide them from anyone.

She unpacked the rest of her clothes and filled the closet. The room was small, with plain white wallpaper, a single bed, an oak dresser, a nightstand, and a dingy little mirror with a faded Clinton/Gore ’96 sticker stuck to the bottom. Having seen friends’ rooms at Holy Cross and BC, Celia knew that this one was cozy and clean by comparison. Smith had free cable TV in every room, and private phones for each student, and huge windows with thick sills you could sit on, reading for hours. Her parents were going into crazy debt so she could be here. (“We’ll be paying the loans off until your kids are in college,” her father had said the previous spring, in one final attempt to make her go to a state school.) She knew she ought to feel grateful. Still, Celia got a little hysterical, imagining living the next four years between these walls.

She tried to go as long as she could without calling her mother. She lasted three hours.

“I started to drive on the way back here so your father could rest his eyes,” her mother said. “I didn’t even make it to exit eighteen before I was crying so hard that I had to pull over and switch seats with Daddy.”

Celia laughed. “I miss you guys so much already.”

Just then, a girl appeared outside the open door to her room. She looked like a middle-aged man, with a huge beer gut hanging over her khakis and a small brown stain on her white T-shirt. Her hair was slicked back, and she held a clipboard in her hand.

Celia hoped she hadn’t heard her blubbering away to her mother like a five-year-old.

“I gotta go,” she said into the phone.

“Celia Donnelly?” the girl said, looking down at her list. Her voice was deep and gravelly. “Pleased to meet you. I’m your HP—that’s house president—Jenna the Monster Truck Collins. First-year meeting in the living room in five.”

Downstairs in the living room a few minutes later, they sat in a circle on the floor, and Celia took stock of the other new girls. There were fifteen of them in all, and they mostly looked like the girls she’d known in high school. They wore jeans or cotton sundresses; they had touches of lip gloss and mascara on their faces, and smooth, long hair. Then there were the girls leading the meeting: Jenna the Monster Truck; two other seniors about her size, both named Lisa, both with cropped boy haircuts; and a junior named Becky, who looked like she might be positively gorgeous if only she gave a damn about her appearance. Her shoulder-length hair lay flat, clumped with grease, and her face was so shiny that, for the first time ever, Celia envisioned herself taking a little witch hazel to a stranger’s skin. With the exception of Jenna, they all wore flannel pajamas.

Is this what she and the others would become? Celia wondered. Did attending a women’s college make you relinquish all grooming products and embrace carbohydrates like you only had a week left to live? (Later she would learn that if you weren’t careful, the answers to these questions were yes and yes. After one semester, about a quarter of the girls would be going crazy, filling out transfer applications to Wesleyan or Swarthmore or any coed school that would take them midway through the year.)

Reading Group Guide

“One of the year's most inviting summer novels. Strong, warmly believable three-dimensional characters who have fun, have fights and fall into intense love affairs.” —The New York Times

The summary, questions, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of J. Courtney Sullivan's witty and accomplished debut novel, Commencement.

1. What are your thoughts on single-sex education?

2. Do you think Commencement presents an accurate description of a women's college?

3. In the novel the character Sally becomes involved with a professor. Do you think student/teacher relationships are more common at women's colleges? Or is that an out-dated myth?

4. This book has a strong feminist message. What do you take away from this?

5. Commencement's protagonists graduate from Smith in 2002. Gloria Steinem compares Commencement to Mary McCarthy's The Group, which depicts a group of eight young women who graduate from Vassar in 1933. And Gloria Steinem, herself, graduated from Smith College in 1956. How do you think these three generations of experiences at women's colleges differ and how do they remain the same?

6. Each character thought they had a very clear notion of who they were when entering college. How did each grow and change during their time there and what impact did their unique friendships have on each other?

7. Do you think all of the protagonists in Commencement are feminists?

8. On page 155, Sally feels her friends have not celebrated her engagement enough and she remarks “The real sting in it came from the fact that the same women who had counseled her through her grief for four years at college wanted nothing to do with her joy. Perhaps it took more to feel truly happy for a friend than it did to feel sympathy for her.” Do you think Sally is right, or do you think other emotions are at play for her friends?

9. When Bree and Lara visit Lara's boss's house, they meet Nora and Roseanna and their son, Dylan. Bree seems to find them ridiculous while Lara embraces their lifestyle. How does this incident speak to the roles they play in their relationship and how does Bree's family situation color her perceptions of this afternoon?

10. Each of the four women in Commencement has a different kind of mother and a different kind of relationship with her. How is each girl a reflection of her mother and how do their bonds (or severed bonds) influence their decisions?

11. Poet John Malcolm Brinnin once said, “Proximity is nine-tenths of friendship.” How true is that for these women?

12. What is your favorite college memory?


(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

Customer Reviews

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Commencement 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 165 reviews.
Nadine_C More than 1 year ago
I just finished the book yesterday and I thought it was an excellent book! I've read all of Emily Giffin's books and I've been looking for another author with similar writing style for awhile and I feel this book really satisfied me; you'll finish the book in no time because you won't be able to put it down (you'll also wish she came out with another book already!)
BookLoverBJM More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and the character development of the 4 women involved in the story. It centers around life at Smith College and the friendships between the 4 girls. Then upon graduation....they all go their separate ways, but the friendships remain strong. It was definitely "chick lit" but a great summer read. I was in it until the last page. I recommend it for some great light reading. Can't wait to start her new book......MAINE.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
I listened to it via audio and the narrator did a great job with accents of the four young women (Celia, Bree, Sally, and April), especially the southern accent and at times was very humorous as the friendship develops between the 4 gals at the beginning of their freshman year at Smith College. However, I would not have made it thru reading the book; however, felt I need to finish the audio. I was not crazy about Maine either, so not an author I typically read. There was a lot of radical feminist politics and topics which were not of interest to me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And glad I stuck with it as it turned into a real page turner The girls are genuine and I liked each of them I read Maine first and it is apparent Ms Sullivan has had great female relstionships and role models as both have strong characters from all generations I look forward to her next novel
Amysmithers More than 1 year ago
This book had a good start similar to sisterhood of traveling pants, and then went downhill from there. 4 friends that can't get over their college years. 4 friends that have absolutely nothing in common & remained friends for no reason. Years after they graduate they were still dwelling on the past. The end just topped the cake. TOTALLY RIDICULOUS. Do not waste your time-even if you have nothing better to do!
omg_be More than 1 year ago
I am all for giving new writers the benefit of the doubt, but this book was a waste of my time. The writer wrote more about Smith College, than developing the characters or the story itself. There was no closure, although the writer had many opportunities to do so, and the ending was horrible, I literally thought the last pages were lost. I would not recommend this book to anyone....and am disappointed I spent the money on it myself...
lucy3107 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is good "beach reading," nothing more. The tagline on the back cover compares this book to Curtis Sittenfield's prep (but with college students), but Prep was much more engaging and interesting than this. The characters were stereotypical and their actions predictable. Part I is stronger than part II, where the situation swings back and forth between horrifying and ridiculous. However, the book is well-written and I would give the author another chance - hopefully with better material.
bachaney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Commencement tells the story of four young women--Bree, Celia, April and Sally--who meet in their freshman dorm at Smith College. The four women are from different backgrounds and have different dreams, but their experience at Smith draws them together into what they believe will be a life long friendship. After graduation, the four women move in their separate ways, vowing to stay close. Soon the different paths of their lives will challenge their friendship, and one critical choice will threaten to tear them all apart.Commencement was the second novel that I have read by J. Courtney Sullivan (I read her novel Maine first) and I have to say, I'm glad I read Maine first, because after Commencement, I'm not sure I would have given her a second chance. There wasn't anything horrible about the novel, but the first half of it really dragged for me and it took me a very long time to get interested in the story. And then once the story got interesting, it seemed to start taking turns that got progressively less believable. The novel is well written, but maybe I'm not familiar enough with the culture and lifestyle of Smith College and its graduates to fully appreciate its charms.
etxgardener on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read this book before, or rather, several like it - the coming of age of four college roommates and what happens to them as they leave school and enter the real world. This one, however, is set in more contemporary times and originates at that bastion of political correct lesbianism - Smith. We meet the main characters as they start their Freshman year: Celia, a lapsed Catholic, but perhaps, the most normal of all of the girls; Bree, a lovely southern belle who arrives with an engagement ring on her finger, but soon falls into a Lesbian affair; Sally, who has just lost her mother and cannot deal with her loss; and April, a radical feminist who wants to take on all those who would malign women.I'm sure this book reflects college life as it is today in the rarified atmosphere of one of the old Seven Sisters women colleges, but as a reader, I found it hard to relate to, it being so far from my own college experience so many years ago. Do young women play so casually with lesbianism? Would any woman in her right mind agree to the stunt that April is talked into in the name of protecting young girls from sexual trafficking? While well-written, this book just isn't ultimately believable.
jennzee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Commencement is the story of four women who are very different, but who all become friends during their freshman year at Smith Collge, and all girl school in the Northeastern US. The story jumps between the present time, at which Sally is getting married, and their time at Smith, and it told in rotating sections from each woman's perspective. It starts out feeling like a pretty cookie cutter chick lit book, with Celia waking up after a one night stand and realizing she's late to catch the bus to Sally's wedding...but somehow, completely organically, it turns into something much greater through the course of the story. It becomes a treatise on how being friends with people who are different from you and believe differently can be difficult, how those relationships only become more difficult to maintain with time and distance, and how vital they can be to hold on to. It also morphs into a story about Bree's difficulty comming to terms with parts of herself her family cannot accept, Sally working through her mother's death, both in the immediate aftermath and the long term painful moments, such as not having her mom at her wedding, Celia dealing with a desire for something more in her life, an April working through how she can reconcile her radical beliefs and desires to change the world with reality and personal safety....Without spoiling much, I will say that this book goes somewhere I didn't expect at all, but which I appreciated so so so much. This is how "chick lit" should be written-- it's good, quality fiction with main characters that are women. I identified with each character in a different way, I've already reread it twice, and it's the first book I reccomend to my femaie friends right now. My only complaint is that since it was the author's first book, she doesn't have anything else out yet! You will not regret reading it.
alanna1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I probably had unfairly high expectations for this book. I really enjoy reading about friendships and college and there just aren't that many smart books written about that subject. The icing on my expectations cake was that it also took place almost exactly when I was in college - so the women in the book were like my contemporaries! YAY!Well. Not so yay. There were somethings I liked about this book - the characters were okay - sometimes I got them muddled because in some ways they weren't so different. Celia had the least drama going on in her life and I had to keep reminding me about what her back story. It didn't help that she was supposed to be from a big Boston Irish family and her name was Celia. Personally - being from the Boston area and of Irish decent - I don't know a heck of a lot of Celia's and so I kept forgetting who she was. It is hard having 4 main characters. It is hard making them different enough to be interesting to the reader but also making them seem like they have enough in common that it makes sense that they are friends. I didn't really understand their friendship. April in particular seemed like such an unlikely member of the quartet.April was my least favorite character in the novel. I really didn't like her and felt the author should have done a lot more footwork investing me in her since she turns out to be such a pivotal character. There was not much given to us that made her likable. I also feel like someone so educated wouldn't be so incredibly stupid.Okay. So I felt this book was very predictable - right to the very last page. But it was an easy read - and if all she says about the traditions of Smith are true - well heck - that was a hoot and worth the read.
TerriBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Four bright young women who go to Smith and graduate Phi Beta Kappa -- you'd think they'd be more mature as they face life. Maybe this is supposed to be a reflection of the extended adolescence we see these days. Covering the time from when these young women start college, through their mid-twenties, all four of them seem to just drift through relationships, careers, family life. I wanted to like them, but I mostly wanted to just shake them and say "What are you thinking?" Must be the mother in me.I don't know anything about Smith College. If this book is at all realistic, don't send your daughters there!
aimless22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful debut novel about four friends who meet at Smith College. The bonds that form stay strong through their first years after college and we are led to believe that they will remain forever strong.Feminism, lesbianism, family, death, loss, fights, make ups, marriage, motherhood - all squeezed into these four women's four years at Smith and the first four years after.Wonderfully fleshed out characters keep the reader interested.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a little torn about this book... part of me wants to describe it as yet another book about self-absorbed twentysomething women of privilege (boring), describing a friendship between four women (boring), who find themselves pining for their college days (boring). And yet -- I could not put this book down. Each of the four women is wonderfully written; the women keep secrets and fight with each other, recognizing that close friendship needs work when apart; their lives, both the big events and the small disappointments and triumphs, are very real. I found it engrossing.One of the characters in the book mentions that when John Updike writes about feelings, he gets a Pulitzer, and when a woman writes about feelings, she gets a pink cover and shelved in the chick-lit section. It is altogether too true, and yet something about this book and its setting at Smith College and its focus almost entirely on women holds me back from giving it five stars.
BaileysAndBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Commencement is the story of four friends, April, Sally, Celia and Bree, who navigate their way through finding themselves as they start college (in this case, Smith, which also happens to be Ms. Sullivan¿s alma mater) and discovering who they really are once they graduate.I was going to write a little description of each character, but as I think about them, I can¿t think of just one phrase to sum up each of these women, they are so multi-dimensional, and that is what I think made this book such an enjoyable read for me. I found myself able to relate to each of the characters for some trait they held, but they also had something about them that was foreign to me that I wanted to read and know more. There was not one I said, ¿oh, she is my favorite¿ or one that I didn¿t like at all. They all had their virtues, and they each certainly had their own personal flaws.The story begins with a wedding, or at least the travels back to Smith College for Sally¿s wedding to the sweet, loveable man that Sally¿s three friends fear isn¿t good enough for her. As we build to the wedding, we also travel to the past to see how their friendship grew over their four years as housemates.Of course, there must be drama ¿ and this book provides it. The night before the wedding tests their friendship and the rest of the novel explores the paths they take ¿ with and away from each other.I won¿t say too much else, as I don¿t want to be leading or spoil anything. I will say that I wasn¿t thrilled with where some parts of this book went in the end. But overall because of the characters themselves, and the fun of watching them develop while they were in college, I walked away from this book happy I read it, and looking forward to what Sullivan may write next.
yankeesfan1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this to be an enjoyable read. It has some predictable elements of chick lit, yet also a nice amount of feminist discussion. I liked the insight into the Smith culture, even if it was not totally realistic. The back and fourth between college stories and post college was a interesting. I found the characters likeable for their backstories and flaws, as well as their positives. Overall, a fun quick read.
ironicqueery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Commencement is a great book; think Sex and the City if the women had graduated from a Seven Sisters college, then add intellectual insight. The novel starts off with the standard "chick lit" feel to it - friends getting together for a wedding and remanences of college life. But as the plot develops, the story becomes quite thought-provoking. The book provides an insightful look at Feminism and how different women define it, whether they be more traditional to very radical. The four women are used to show the variety of perspectives and how people can still relate to one another even when varying beliefs are held. The book also speaks about class and how money affects the lives of each woman. There are also other common issues like love and growing older, but they are handled smartly. J. Courtney Sullivan has written a wonderful book that packages a wide range of important issues into a novel that is entertaining and captivating to read. She obviously has put a lot of thought into the issues she finds important to write about. Hopefully this is the first of many brilliant novels to come from her.
Coyote99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a disappointing book!!!! Sloppy writing, boring, wandering descriptions and inane dialog. Can't understand how this has gotten the praise except that the author is on the Editorial Board of the NY Times and must have benefited from insider consideration. She is very well connected and the Literary Feminists have rallied around. How sad that the descriptions of life at Smith give the impression that the students were only interested in sexual encounters and never attended a class.
Greta626 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am very disappointed in this book. The author is not a good writer. The characters are caricatures (and annoying ones at that). The dialogues in this book are stuff that actual people would never say. Her plot... let's just say that it's fairly clear that Sullivan has no idea what she's talking about for much of the second half of the book. The main characters seem to float around in a work-free environment agonizing about love, relationships, and families with nary a worry about money or responsibilities. The one woman who actually has a career and cares about what she does is depicted as a sucker, a slave, and a fanatic. And the book ends on a stupid, unrealistic twist that is truly cringe-worthy. I bought this book expecting a delightful and well-written beach read. It was not that.
bearette24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a warm and intelligently written novel that really brought Smith College to life for me. The story focuses on four friends who meet at Smith and follows their lives after graduation: Celia, an aspiring writer; Bree, a Southerner whose sexuality takes an unexpected turn; Sally, who is wealthy but motherless; and April, a militant feminist (who does have a sense of humor). One subplot had a bit too much violence for me, but the quality of the writing and character development made up for it.
mustreet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book about four former floormates at Smith College, as they progressed through college and then beyond. It was fun to take a glimpse at college life at Smith and at times it seemed like more than just the usual chick-lit. I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of book this author chooses to write next.
LisaMa321 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel starts off strong. The story begins by telling both the current and past stories of the main characters. While somewhat stereotypical, each character is a true archetype of the Smith College women. After a strong first half, the novel finishes with a somewhat disjointed second half. Each character experiences a major life event, but they are unoriginal, and lose the originality that the first half develops. The ending is also somewhat unfulfilling.
RivkaBelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh. Wow. I went into this book expecting a typical chick-lit book about four friends who went through college together, yadda yadda yadda ... I love those stories, so I was looking forward to it. What I read was so much more. So much. It *is* the story of four (very different, of course!) girls who meet their freshman orientation and become close friends through college and beyond. But it's also the story of four lives interwoven and connected in ways that defy distance, argument, unknowing ... Some pretty serious issues are dealt with in the girls' lives and discussions -- frankly, but sensitively. I was thoughtful through much of the reading. I also greatly appreciate the mechanics of the storytelling: each of the four girls is allowed to speak. Sometimes their stories overlap, but because you're seeing it from a different perspective which gives dimensionality to the novel. In short, this was an amazing reading experience - and I kinda hope there's more to come!
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable read about 4 women from various backgrounds who attended Smith, which become an emblematic experience for them.
courtb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good story about women and their bonds.