Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book 65: Commencement

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I really enjoyed this novel - it was really what would probably be described as the perfect summer read: it's light without being vapid and actually portrays characters in a rather realistic manner. While it could easily be described as chick lit since most novels that revolve around women in their 20s are automatically labeled as chick lit (and I for one don't think chick lit is necessarily a bad thing but it is rather looked down on as a genre, and even some of the novels that are deeper are quickly lumped in with the ones that are rather shallow and generic), it's definitely a feminist version of chick lit. Of course, since I originally heard about this novel over at Feministing, that makes sense.

The novel begins with a wedding at Smith College four years after four best friends graduated from the women's school. From this point, Sullivan spends some time explaining the history on how April, Celia, Bree and Sally became friends at Smith despite their varying personalities and social backgrounds. For the most part, all the women's lives have taken very different turns than expected from both the beginning of their freshmen year and even since graduating college. Bree, the former Southern belle, is a lawyer in California with a girlfriend and Sally, who always wanted to be a doctor and was in ways the most driven of the group, has delayed med school.

The women have drifted apart since graduation as becomes apparent during an argument the evening before Sally's wedding. I liked the way Sullivan portrayed the characters, and the life choices they made. The small resentments the women had toward each other on occasion as well as the judgements wrapped within supportive friendships made sense to me and seemed realistic - even though all her friends were supportive of Sally's marriage for example, they also didn't necessarily feel like the guy was good enough for her and felt at other times that Sally was acting as if she had everything figured out while they were still working on it. I don't think it would be realistic for them not to judge each other's choices on occasion, even if in the end, they are still each other's support system.

I also enjoyed that Sullivan didn't wrap the ending up nicely and have everyone get what they wanted - there are definitely questions about the future, and difficult decisions that have been made or still need to be made. There were some amusing bits in the story as well, and I'd definitely recommend it. As I said, I didn't have to concentrate too much but I also didn't feel like I was losing brain cells by reading it.

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