by J. Courtney Sullivan
I was recently given a copy of The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan which was published in 2013. I was aware of her novels but had yet to read any of them.
Tucked in between its pages the previous reader had left a clipping from The Boston Globe featuring an interview with the author about the book. I purposely put it aside not wanting it to influence my reading of it in any way.
At the center of this fictional story the main character is based on the real life of Frances Gerety, a copywriter for a Philadelphia adverting agency beginning in the 1940’s who was assigned to the agency’s biggest account, DeBeers Jewelers. As the book travels over the decades, the author explores the lives of four people, some of whom experienced engagements, some not, always returning to Frances and the factual history of the DeBeers marketing strategy to promote diamond rings which began with the engagement ring.
I’m not a fan of historical fiction and the tool of taking real people and using them as characters. I find it a gimmick – I’m always wondering what was true, what was created by the author and how unfair it is the person who is no longer alive to tell their story. However after finishing the book, I was grateful to learn that Ms. Sullivan did a great deal of research, and more importantly, had had lengthy interviews with former colleagues and friends of Frances; I felt confident that she, a women ahead of her time was presented accurately and would appreciate her story being told.
Ms. Sullivan is often lauded for her developed and drawn out characters. At times I found the characters too developed, leaving little to the reader’s imagination; some of the characterizations bordered on being one dimensional and stereotypical. For me the most interesting character was not the fictional ones but was Frances.
After a handful of chapters and not feeling overly enamored with the story I pulled out the interview and discovered that there would eventually be a connection linking the individual characters. Armed with this nugget, the amateur sleuth in me resumed reading with a new curiosity to figure it out. I’m glad I finished the book. I’m grateful to Ms. Sullivan for sharing the life of Frances Gerety, a woman whose work in a once male dominated industry contributed immeasurably to the success of DeBeers. We need more stories which reveal and acknowledged the ground breaking contributions of such women. ~ Nina Murphy
We all know Bristol, Rhode Island is super special and so are all the people who live here. What better way to pay tribute to these people than to feature them in a book?! Nadalin introduces you to the many key players past and present – founders, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and my favorite – librarians!! If you can’t make it to the library to borrow the book, you might be pleasantly surprised to know it is available in eBook format as well! I recommend this for anyone new to Bristol! It will give you a nice introduction to our lovely little town. If you already live here, do pick it up. It is enjoyable! – Kristin
The Heiress (DVD)
Based on the 1947 Broadway stage play by the same name, which in turn, was based on the 1880 Henry James novel “Washington Square.” The movie, set in 1849 New York, follows Catherine Slooper, (Olivia De Havilland) daughter of a prominent New York City surgeon, (Ralph Richardson) who blames his daughter for the death of his wife; who died in childbirth. Catherine, a plain, overly shy, awkward young woman is pursued and courted by Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), a near-do well forutne hunter, who jilts her on the very evening they were to elope, when he learnes her father is planning to dis-inherit her.
Years later, he unexpectedly returns and this time she turns the tables on him, which dooms her to a life of comfortable yet lonely spinsterhood. Her wealth was a motivinating factor but, did Morris actually have legitimate feelings for Catherine? Watch the movie and you decide!
Henry James used a contemporary, real life scandal on which he based his novel.
– Rei B
I thought for August it might be fun to air my opinion on what is considered great literature. George Eliot is one of the giants of Victorian Literature. Her novels are as giant as her reputation, and in my opinion as dull and ponderous with a few exceptions. The novel, Romola, is a delight. It takes place in Renaissance Florence at a time when Intellectual and artistic ability were open to many, and Social standing and Political power were fluid. This is the world in which we are introduced to the charming character of Tito Melema. He begins from nothing. He marries the most perfect woman in Florence, beautiful, kind and boring. He has political ambitions. He is always at the right plays at the right time. He always knows the right thing to say. He excels at oratory. He is modest when it serves his purpose, and likewise he is kind and handsome. One cannot read his conversations and his perspectives on the world and not be fond of him despite his flaws. Even when you discover he has a secret peasant wife with beautiful children whom he adores, the reader still loves him. There are a lot of characters, and a lot happens, as in any book by George Eliot. Much of it is interesting, but for me, one of the most fascinating and appealing characters of all times in the cannon of great literature is without a doubt Tito Melema. Because of him, you’ll wish a very long book was longer.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus, by Ann Braden
The debut author, Ann Braden, is a middle school teacher in Vermont. Frustrated that there are books about urban youth and well off suburban teens, but there were so few books about struggling teens, she decided to write her own book about teens in Vermont. The result is a fantastic multilayered book! Zoey is a seventh grader, living in a trailer with her mother who works nights at a pizza place, her boyfriend, Lenny (and his father) and Zoey’s younger brother and sister. Zoey know her life would be easier if she were an octopus with eight arms who could get everything done with them. In her real life, she can’t get her homework done at night because she is too busy taking care of her brother and sister while her mother is at work. The trailer that her family lives in is Lenny’s and she and her mother try to make everything right so that Lenny is happy with them. When a teacher gets Zoey on the after school debate team,
she begins to think a bit more about what is going on around her and what she can do to change it for the better.
The whole atmosphere of this book is the real Vermont, with friction between the well-to-do middle class and the working poor and how neighbors can help each other. All the characters are very real and well done in a story with real tension. Terrific book!
An excellent movie, that will hold your attention from start to finish! This movie is about the legendary rock band Queen and its gifted singer Freddie Mercury. A definite to put on your “to watch” list. It will leave you wanting to know more about this eclectic and creative band!
Many thanks to our Outreach librarian for sending in this review!
Captain Marvel is Marvel’s first feature film to have a female superhero as a lead – and it’s about time. I did have some issues with it, like the predictable villain and no, I wouldn’t put it in my ‘Top 5 Marvel Movies’ list (even though Captain Marvel is possibly my favorite female Marvel hero) but it was entertaining. It was funny and heartwarming. There was just a little something missing. Despite that, Brie Larson was the perfect choice to play Carol Danvers and brilliantly brings Captain Marvel to the big screen.
This origin story feels like a coming of age film, where Carol discovers who she is and what she’s capable of (spoiler: it’s a lot). As arguably one of the most powerful superheroes she can accomplish a lot once she embraces her powers and everything that makes her uniquely her. I also love how she is unapologetically herself, whether it’s being an amazing female pilot or an uber powerful superhero. She doesn’t apologize for being stronger, smarter, or more passionate than anyone else – and that’s a great message to take to heart. No one asks the male superheroes to do so, so why should Captain Marvel? There were a lot of elements of feminism in the storyline, which I appreciated.
The supporting characters were the ones that shone for me in this film. We got to see Nick Fury’s origin story, Phil Coulson as a new agent, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s development from a terrestrial organization to one that realizes there is more out there. Monica Rambeau, Carol’s fellow pilot, and her daughter Maria were the heart of this movie and stole so many scenes. I loved the relationship that Carol had with them and it felt real. And of course, we can’t forget Goose (Chewie in the comics), the orange tabby cat with a secret or two that steals Fury’s heart.
Overall, I cannot wait to see where Carol travels next and how her story intersects with Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., the Rambeau’s, and the other Marvel superheroes in the future. I think she has a bright future ahead of her.