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Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
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Commencement

by J. Courtney Sullivan

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7354518,976 (3.3)16

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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Parts were a little far-fetched, but Sullivan perfectly captures life at a women's college. I didn't go to Smith, but I recognized so much of the culture and tradition from my own women's college that I was laughing aloud through much of the book.

If you've experienced life at a women's college, settle in with Commencement and an Indigo Girls mix, and be prepared for a trip down memory lane. ( )
  bookishkris | Nov 19, 2018 |
Could this be any more cliched? I admit I was suckered when I saw this book displayed at Borders around May of 2009, which is when most colleges have graduation or commencement ceremonies, if not in June. I had been feeling a little nostalgic about college and decided to pick it up, even though I'm a few years older than the women portrayed in this book, nor did I go to an all female college.

The book started off well and I thought it was going to be a relatively straight forward look through the 4 or so years of the four main characters. Instead, the narrative jumps around, with the different points of their college careers being told from each of the women's viewpoints. Initially that was fine, but after a while my eyes were about to fall out of my head from rolling them so much.

The main characters really don't get too much depth, and so help the supporting cast. The author uses a lot of all-women schools/college cliches, of which I felt was overdone. I realize there is some truth to some of these stories, but it just didn't help the author at all. There's the "goody" student who has an affair with a professor more than twice her age who's not only creepy in how he courts her, but in the fact that lo and behold, he's also married! There's the girl who comes to school engaged and becomes what most people thought was a "lesbian until graduation", but apparently not. The man one of the main characters gets married to seems to be a nice, kind Ken doll sort of character--almost like a Stepford husband. It goes on and on.

It's a real pity because the novel shows depth and is more interesting in the second half, although I wonder if the author either was told by the editor to change it or she just didn't know what to do with her book. Be warned, there's discussion and description of date rape, child rape and child sex trafficking. I thought it was good to bring these topics up, but there's almost NO follow-up. The author doesn't get into how the raped woman deals with the repercussions really. The child abuse is more of a plot device rather than a larger message. I was thoroughly disappointed and once again reminded why I almost always stay away from chick lit. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
As my kids get older and as I watch my nephew and nieces get closer to graduating, I find myself wondering what kinds of stress they all feel around grades, and choosing the 'right' college, family expectations......this book was beautifully written and could almost be viewed as 'cautionary'......very real characters. I loved it and have passed it on! ( )
  TiffanyHow | Oct 3, 2017 |
This book was super! It made me want to go back to my college days with my college friends. When I could I read it laying on my stomach like a child. It was a book that made me feel like a young girl again but at the same time like the adult that I am. I even wanted to say one of my friends who is having a baby..and then I'd remember it's not a friend it's a character in the book..but that's how deep and great the characters were. I would recommend this book to any woman out there young or old looking for a book about friendship, life and the journey we all take through it. ( )
  Lisa_Boys | Feb 8, 2016 |
Not really my kind of book. 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. ( )
  JudithDCollins | Nov 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Sullivan’s gifts are substantial. By the end you’re rooting for her to let her storytelling talents roam out into less protected territory.
 
J. Courtney Sullivan’s “Commencement” is one of this year’s most inviting summer novels.
 
Even as several subplots take soapy turns, the author manages to find that sweet spot between Serious Literature and chick lit. Commencement is a beach book for smart women — and the girls they once were.
 
Readable, but dated and lackluster.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (May 15, 2009)
 
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For my parents, Eugene F. Sullivan Jr. and Joyce Gallagher Sullivan
First words
Celia woke with a gasp.
Quotations
Sometimes April worried that she’d been built without some fundamental piece that everyone else had that just let them deal. Even her mother, who got involved in every lefty cause she could, seemed to be able to shake it all off at the end of the day and enjoy life. But the evil in the world, everywhere you looked, was always on April’s mind.
She had once joked about how it was illegal to buy liquor in Massachusetts on Sundays or on holidays, so her Irish relatives would always stock up beforehand. (Right before Independence Day each year, Celia said, her grandfather would announce, “If you want to have a great Fourth, buy a fifth on the third!”)
This was something Sally hadn’t realized about weddings until she started planning one – no matter how simple, they were never just about the bride and groom. Those in attendance who were in love felt all the happier, their love strengthened by being in the presence of a new, hopeful marriage. For those who hadn’t been lucky in love, a wedding was like a bad paper cut – annoying and painful and impossible to ignore.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307270742, Hardcover)

Amazon Exclusive: Allison Winn Scotch Reviews Commencement

Allison Winn Scotch is the New York Times bestselling author of Time of My Life and The Department of Lost & Found. Her third novel, The Happiest Days of My Life, will be published in 2010. Read her exclusive Amazon guest review of Commencement:

There is a curious thing that happens to nearly all of us in the haze of our post-college years, and that is this: we anticipate the prospect of becoming honest-to-God adults with both heady excitement and unfathomable dread. Dread because we know, wisely, that once we cross this threshold, we cannot go back; there is no sleeping in past eleven, no immature antics that can still be written off to childhood, no phoning our parents when the checkbook hits zero. Excitement because it is such a relief to evolve into something bigger than we were before, to embrace the world as ready, steady grown-ups. And J. Courtney Sullivan, via her debut novel, Commencement, explores these very complexities and growing pains of leaving behind our adolescences and surrendering to adulthood.

As I followed the intertwining paths of her four protagonists, each written honestly and tenderly, I couldn’t help but recall my own tangled path toward adulthood, the missteps, the right steps, the paths that have lead to a content life. And this is what the very best fiction does: it draws you in, resonating, asking you to reflect not just on the characters, but yourself. There is Celia, who can’t get unstuck from her rut; there is April, whose convictions threaten to overshadow the rest of her life; there is Bree, who faces a choice between her happiness and that of her family’s; and there is Sally, who is taping herself back together after the loss of her mother who held her family together.

The four of them, united as freshmen at Smith, slowly bond to form their own family, and like even the best of families, they find themselves both dependent and also fractured at various points in their lives. Sullivan does a fabulous job steering the quartet through realistic, life-changing events, events that so many of us have experienced in these growing years that usher us into our thirties. She never loses control of the plots, never lets the characters spill into something false or untrue. An unplanned pregnancy, a dead-end job, a relationship that might be worth salvaging, but who really knows how or if?

What I enjoyed most about Commencement, and there were many things—the smart writing, the laugh-out-loud dialogue, the ending that I truly couldn’t predict—was that it reminded me so much of how much I loved those years of my life. And how much I loved my friends who I have been fortunate enough to have along in my journey. I found myself rewinding through memories, sifting through old pictures, smiling as I was reading because Sullivan managed to transport me. She created indelible characters who became part of my life, and thus, allowed my life to become part of her book. This is also what the best fiction does, it pulls you along for the ride as if you were there, as if you were in between the pages, as if Sullivan knew my own story and made it hers. —Allison Winn Scotch

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A tender story of friendship, a witty take on liberal arts colleges, 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.

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