Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Commencement: A Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan

My sister told me she was reading one of my all-time favorite books: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I couldn't believe it. My little sister, who has never shown any interest in reading for fun, was reading for fun, and was reading one of my favorite books to boot! I was happy and excited, because this meant we could finally chat about a book. And then I realized something - my sister was reading and I wasn't. AHHHH!. Yes, its true, I have not been in a reading mood lately.  The horror, the horror!  And so, in order to break this slump, I started to read the magazines on my nightstand and eventually I picked up a book. Nothing too deep, something light and fluffy.  
Written by J. Courtney Sullivan, Commencement is:

...a sparkling tale of friendship 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.

Their first year at college, Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn't have less in common.  Celia, a lapsed Catholic arrives with a bottle of vodka in her suitcase; Bree pines for the fiance she left behind in Savannah; preppy Sally is reeling from the loss of her mother; and April, a radical, redheaded feminist wearing a "Riot: Don't Diet" T-shirt, wants a room transfer immediately.  Commencement follows these unlikely friends through college and the years beyond, brilliantly capturing the complicated landscape facing young women today. 

My thoughts:

I liked Commencement.  It was the perfect book to get me out of my reading slump, because it was the type of book I would call a one-off (a quick pick me up book).  It was a light, fun read.  The writing was good and flowed rather nicely, making the story progress at an even speed.  Each chapter was told from the perspective of one of the four main characters which provided some insight into each individual character and their opinions about certain events and relationships.  The plot was about the rise and fall of these four women's lives and friendships.  The four friends met during their first year at Smith College, where they embraced feminism and friendship and life.  This book takes us through their time at Smith to their current place in life, which is their mid-twenties.  We have a wedding, the birth of a baby, serial dating, and a missing friend - all of which make for quite an interesting read.  The predictability of certain events and the ending did make me roll my eyes, but what did I expect from a beach read, right?  And the feminist themes that were mentioned were a bit cliched at times, but I appreciated that they were included (of course the collegiate setting was Smith, so how could feminism not be mentioned, right?).  Overall, I enjoyed reading Commencement and would recommend it to those who enjoy chick lit. 

And now I'm off to peruse my overflowing bookshelves and pick something new to read.  Hopefully something with a bit more bite to it.  Happy reading!!!


Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I admit. When I'm in a slump, I will get sucked into chick lit, a vampire, or anything that isn't going to solve world peace. My brain sometimes needs that break after reading a lot of heavy novels, or if I'm in a reading slump, you know? This one sounds really cute, too!

Nadia said...

Coffee and a Book Chick, exactly! Once in awhile my brain needs a break and chick lit is an easy fix. Or a vampire book will do the trick, too :)

Ti said...

When I am in a slump, nothing helps. I just have to give in to it and then somehow the need to read comes back to me.

I've never read Vonnegut. Seems like a crime to me.

Nadia said...

Ti, you must read Vonnegut! His work is awesome - Cat's Cradle is the best! And you are right, sometimes the reaing bug just hits and then boom, I'm on a roll again. ;)

Athira said...

Reading slumps can be so hard to get out of sometimes. I'm glad you were able to. Nothing better than a light enjoyable read!

Nadia said...

Aths, so true! I think it helps just to read anything when I'm in a rut, because eventually it inspires me to continue reading - and then I am back on track :)

Luxembourg said...

I enjoyed it. I read it very quickly; I wanted to know what happened with the characters. On the one hand I think it is well written but i thought it was a major flaw that the characters did not have distinct voices, at all. Does this mean it was not well written and deserves less than four stars? I am not sure.
There are four main characters in this book and aside from one, April, I couldn't tell them apart. Each chapter is written from a "different" point of view, meaning one is narrated by Sally, the next by Celia, etc. But if I had just dropped into a chapter w/o knowing the "author" it would not be clear from the voice of the narrator. They do have individual stories, and characteristics, as ascribed and stated in the book. I knew if say, Sally, was the one doing the narrating that she was the one whose mother died (the first chapter, so not a spoiler) and who wanted to go to medical school and was a neat freak. But that's because the other characters say these things about her or she says them about herself. There is nothing in her narrative voice that differs at all from Celia or Bree. I think this is a flaw. Not just because I couldn't tell which character was speaking at any given time but because I would get them mixed up while reading. So, take from what what you will. Its not great literature, but neither is it a goofy, romantic novel. (Oddly enough, the author's subsequent work, Maine, did a better job of distinguishing its characters, and yet they were so unpleasant that I didn't like that book at ALL. This one is the better book, in my opinion.