Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

commencementThis was a sort of hot book this summer that I only just came up on the queue for at the library.  I really loved it-a solid adult fiction book.  It covers relationships, friendships, and let’s face it-it has a hint of boarding school and YAness about it, and that certainly appealed to me too.

This is the story of the intense friendship between four women who went to Smith College together. I tell you, after reading this, I want to go to Smith. Celia, April, Sally, and Bree all have different backgrounds, but the luck of campus housing places them on the same floor their first year at college. They become close friends, practically a single unit.  The structure of the novel is in three parts-their college years: exploring their developing friendship, backgrounds, college shenanigans, and so on. It made college life seem so wonderfully appealing and it was hard for me to tell if I had similar experiences or  if she just wrote so convincingly about them that I was left believing I did.  The next section is four years after college on the eve of Sally’s wedding.  This event is surprising to everyone and there is surprising fallout from it. The final section of the novel is a little while after the wedding when a crisis brings them together.

One of the themes in the novel is feminism and how they can’t help but talk about it, interpret it, think about women, think about how to support women, and how they work that into their lives.  Smith is an all women’s college, so of course it is an integral part of their college years, but it’s interesting to see how it carries out in their adult lives.  April is caught up working for a rather radical woman (whom the others just think is crazy and dangerous) and this becomes a main part of the story.  Sally on the other hand is getting married at a fairly young age, and they all have something to say about that.

I really liked this novel, how it tied together, how you felt something for each of the characters (and definitely developed favorites.) One thing that stood out to me as odd? (And I might get up on a soapbox here.) That one of these incredibly all for women, smart, feminist women, would have a male ob-gyn.  I just do not get women having men deliver their babies. I don’t. It creeps me out when people I know talk about their male obstetricians. I don’t get why a man would choose that.  I think women should be the ones helping other women deliver their babies.  And when one of the women in the story had a man doctor, it just made her seem suddenly like she was looking up to the big strong patronizing doctor.  I wish she had been shown as a strong woman giving birth in a positive empowering way.  I’m guessing, though, that this is probably not something that stands out to other people, that it only does to me because of what I think about the whole matter.

Anyway, awesome novel. I think older teens and younger adults would really like it. And now, I have just started Admission, so I’ll be reading all about Princeton.  Though I’m guessing I won’t be left wishing I’d gone there.

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