Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Release Date: June 16, 2009
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Bree, Celia, April, and Sally couldn’t be more different when the meet for the first time as dorm-mates at Smith College. At first, they are wary of one another, but as circumstances bring them together, they form a strong bond that lasts through their four years of college. But once they are faced with the trials and tribulations of real life, will their friendships still be as unbreakable as they were when they were young?
When I first heard about Commencement, I thought it would be a satisfying women’s fiction novel, and I knew that I really wanted to read it. What I didn’t expect, though, was a beautifully written work of literary fiction that dealt with a multitude of women’s issues and also a wonderful tribute to friendship.
All four characters in Commencement were well written and very interesting to get to know. They were all incredibly different, which is a good thing in a book like this. Any reader will be able to identify with one of these women, but all of them are written very sympathetically. My favorite character was Bree, and her dilemma between her conservative family and the woman she seems to be in love with. April was the character I understood least, and though I admired her activism, her decisions really frustrated me. She was such a strong, capable woman, yet she allowed herself to be manipulated so easily.
The women’s issues discussed in Commencement are compelling and really take the novel to the level of literary fiction, rather than simply women’s fiction. Rape, sexual abuse, death, prostitution – these are just some of the issues discussed in depth within the pages of this novel. However, they never make it heavy or drag it down. Sullivan has a real talent at deftly writing difficult situations without making the book depressing.
This was an impressive novel if only because it’s so smart – the dialogue is witty and all four of the women are intelligent and resourceful. But Commencement is so much more than that too – it’s funny, sincere, and it has a lot of heart. These women and their lasting friendships are really worth reading about – I suggest you give this book a try as soon as you can!