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J. Courtney Sullivan
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3.37  ·  Rating details ·  14,504 Ratings  ·  1,751 Reviews
Assigned to the same dorm their first year at Smith College, Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn't have less in common. Celia, a lapsed Catholic, arrives with her grandmother's rosary beads in hand and a bottle of vodka in her suitcase; beautiful Bree pines for the fiancé she left behind in Savannah; Sally, pristinely dressed in Lilly Pulitzer, is reeling from the loss of ...more
Audio CD, Unabridged, 0 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Recorded Books (first published June 14th 2009)
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Tiny Pants
Aug 28, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After months of Facebook ads pushing this book on me (with the headline "Vassar Grad?" no less), I succumbed as part of my project to read more fiction written for adults. Lesson learned: Don't listen to Facebook ads. Further, don't listen to blurbs from the New York Times when the author is on the editorial staff of the New York Times, and ignore blurbs from Gloria Steinem when said book contains passages of rapturous, glowing Gloria Steinem worship.

The Group it ain't. This isn't even Prep. Com
Admittedly, I read this in just about one insomnia-fueled night, which probably influenced my opinion just a tad.

On the plus side: I love four girls novels. When I was a kid, they were boarding school novels. Four very different girls arrive in a place, usually a boarding school, where they don't know anyone else. Despite the fact that they have nothing in common, they immediately become fast friends and their friendship lasts for decades, during which one will usually have a bad marriage and on
Jul 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the best chick-lit book I have read in a very long time. Witty, fun, some interesting twists, and the fact that it doesn't revolve around one silly character and their strained relationship with boy X. Sullivan gives an interesting perspective on all types of relationships, something I found very refreshing. I should also say, I am from the Northampton area and really related to a lot of the book in ways others may not if you are not from that area, so I very well may be biased. In the e ...more
Nov 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Commencement is a novel about four white heterosexual women who attend a prestigious private college and later are able to stop going to work without worrying about money or giving up their premium cable packages. I mention this because the author seems not to have thought about it.

The four women are shown as they attend Smith and become friends, and later as they graduate and decide how they want to live their lives. Bree and Sally seem to come from the pearls-and-cardigans school of women's-co
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This book is about a group of Seven Sisters grads a few years out of college, like me, which is why I was curious enough to read it as soon as it came out. The first part of it looks back on how the friendships between them formed when they were in college. The second part has them grappling with their feminist politics in their relationships and life choices 4-5 years after graduating. The first part is steeped in the cult of the women's college, painting Smith as a queer feminist utopia. I alw ...more
Jun 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-lighter-side
This book was, in theory, right in my wheelhouse: story of four women's college graduates, one of whom was from Savannah? Count me in, even with the pale blue cover. It had the requisite women's college in-jokes (the students are called "first-years, not freshmen, because we don't see any men around here;" the mandatory "it's a women's college, not a girl's school;" the descriptions of both LUGs and girls who end up in their pajamas for class by senior year). The most infuriating part, though, c ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Before I started this book I checked out many of the reviews. I had mixed feelings. Mostly good reviews if you were a former Smithie, or knew a Smithie. Many other reviews not so good. I went ahead and began my reading.

WOW. My years at college were nothing like this. Thank goodness. The storyline is a little outlandish and unbelievable to me. The second half really seemed to drag on and on. I found myself skimming pages more than reading them, just to move things along.

I had a hard time acceptin
Jul 11, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Clark
Aug 02, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking to get your first novel published, it must help to work for the New York Times to get all of your press and blurbs. How else could this book have gotten published?

If you have attended Smith, especially during the early 2000s, this has some entertaining Smith-specific jargon and tidbits (like the trans character named Toby... how many trans Tobys were there at Smith by 2004? I lost count).

If you haven't, I guess you would like this book if you were looking for a breezy summer r
Sep 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I loved this book and thought it was my generation's great feminist novel. The story is about four friends who meet at Smith, and trials and tribulations of their friendships. Sullivan does a great job capturing life at a women's college turn of the millenia-- the running around, the chasing of boys, the trying on of different ideologies. Also it was one of the first books I've read in a while that honestly draws in feminist theory, as the women in the story discuss the choices they hav ...more
Julia Reed
I really wanted to love this book. It's written by a Smithie, about Smithies, and the scenes that took place at Smith made me really, really miss college. She captured Smith exactly right, except for the part about the student sleeping with the professor (could we PLEASE have ONE book/movie/play/story about a women's college student that does NOT involve sleeping with professors? PLEASE?).

But the simple fact is that this is not a good book. The story is a little (maybe more than a little) outla
Sep 02, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Amateurishly written, clunky, boring, and riddled with bad dialogue and cardboard characters. And I went to a school not unlike Smith in some ways, so you'd think I'd be interested. I soldiered on for 49 pages and gave up. (I don't even care if there's going to be a torrid lesbian love affair, which I rather assume there will be.)

I'm editing to add that I see a lot of people comparing this (favorably) to Curtis Sittenfeld's "Prep," which I have also read. "Prep" is by far the superior book, in m
Jun 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three is pushing it, but I can't deny that this was a fast read and at times very interesting. HOwever it most certianly did not live up to its NY Times review (I was suspicious since Sullivan has written for them and they always stick up for their own kind).
This story centers around four girls who meet at Smith and the friendship that ensues. The characters are sketched with about as much originality and depth as those Candy Heart girls or whatever that series was called, where each stereotypic
Aug 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's the thing: I knew after reading the last page of Commencement that I was going to keep reading Sullivan's work. (Matter of fact, I'm excited to pick up The Engagements here soon.)

I say that first and foremost because what I loved best about this book is her talent. This story? At times? Ehhhh not so much.

I mean, I loved the characters—Bree, Sally, April, and Celia. I loved that they were experiencing college together, sharing in 20-something memories that in many ways felt both familiar
I wanted to like this book far more than I ultimately did. The first 1/3 of the novel reminded me so strongly of the relationships that I developed with my closest friends from college - the initial, bumbling attempts to get through homesickness together during freshman year, the arguments and disagreements as we grew and changed, together and individually, by senior year and everything in between. And while my college experience was, in many ways, markedly different from the all-woman's-college ...more
May 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Seven Sisters alumnae
I loved the first half of this book and think every Seven Sisters grad will get a kick out of Commencement. I think the NYTBR raises a lot of points that I also had about the book and I'll leave it at that. I thought some of the various twists in the second half of the book were frustrating, but I see how the author is demonstrating the challenge of living with (perhaps too many) choices.

I think it's worth mentioning that the comparisons to Prep do this book a gross disservice. It's a far bette
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're like me, and you enjoy reading reviews of a book BEFORE you decide to purchase it, you have undoubtedly already read many other reviews for Commencement. Therefore, you have probably noticed that those reviews are pretty mixed (Although, admittedly, the positive ones seem to slightly outnumber the negative). I'm here to tell you that almost everything you have read about this book is correct, both the good and the bad. But despite its drawbacks, I would highly recommend Commencement, a ...more
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended by several Smith classmates from the late '90s, but I have to say I'm deeply underwhelmed. Yes, it was fun for nostalgia's sake to read about familiar places (drinking at Packard's, skinny dipping in Paradise Pond, etc), and to recall those first few disorienting days after arrival as a first year (keeping straight all the acronyms, HONS and SAAs and JMG and so on). But beyond that pleasant jolt of recognition of the general, I was put off by how much I did not recogniz ...more
Lauren Fidler
this is my second j courtney sullivan novel and it oddly left me feeling EXACTLY like the first one. i get having a gimmick or a formula that works for you, but i think writing a sort of lifetime movie version of your own story (a character from milton! a character who is a writer! a character who went to smith! a character who lives in new york! wait, those are all the same character....hhmmmmm....) is a bit dried up. particularly when you kinda do it twice.

here's what sullivan does: she takes
May 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I'm not sure I would have liked this book as much as I did if I hadn't had a very similar college experience. I went to that other women's college up the road from Smith and I graduated the year before the characters in this book would have, so the quad, Mountain Day, Amherst keg parties, and the Holyoke Mall are familiar settings. Sullivan gets the college scenes perfectly right - she has a keen eye for detail and captures grief and tension extraordinarily well. It's when the girls get out of c ...more
Krissy Delovely
I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best books I've read in the past three years. Commencement follows four women from their beginnings at Smith College through their formative years in their mid-twenties. Each of the four main characters is likable but not without their flaws, which helps readers to be able to relate to them. I was immediately drawn in because of the premise because I had a similar experience in college of finding my own group of soul sisters that helped to ...more
Jul 22, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While the brief synopsis on the inside cover of this book makes it sound like another fun chick-lit read, I found it to be anything but. The 4 main characters come from varied backgrounds to attend an all women's college and become best friends. Four years later they are still best friends, despite their differences lifestyles and locations, and they meet up for the wedding of one of the girls. As they grow and change, so does their friendship.

I thought the author portrayed those first post-gra
I picked up this book based on a fantastic review I read in the local newspaper, and I must say I ended up disappointed. As I started the book, I was satifised just being introduced to the characters, but I didn't like them. The girls were all immature in college and beyond (in their “freshman year of life”). And although this was about friendships formed in college, there was very, very little about academics. Somehow, they all managed to stay up all night talking on a continuous basis, and yet ...more
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Am nothing close to unbiased on reading this book. It functions as chick lit, but does not give an authentic perspective on Smith or the challenges presented by feminism and heteroromantic norms colliding that it promises. Am somewhat disappointed in Gloria Steinem calling this a modern update of The Group, even if this is also how the author herself is selling it--where The Group wrestled with generational problems, idealism, and how to remain an independent, thoughtful person in a relationship ...more
Begging to become a brand-new Lifetime Original Movie, this hackneyed, predictable and at times boring book kept my eyes rolling. Worst, this book details exactly why so many writing teachers instruct their students with the old saw of "show, don't tell." If Sullivan had wanted this book to have been a comparison to the past and present of these four Smith grads, she should have picked some key moments to use, instead of trying to condense histories into a few pages. I felt distant and disconnec ...more
Melissa Eisenmeier
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Good book. I loved Bree.
Sheryl Sorrentino
3.5. Commencement is an enjoyable if understated story with substance. The first third (i.e., the college years) plodded along a bit and therefore didn’t “hook” me right away. But I’m glad I hung in to see how the friendship among these four classmates (Celia, Bree, April and Sally) would play out following graduation. Each woman’s tale has something to say about the implications of that woman's life choices (however passively pursued), and the ending, though farfetched and reminiscent of a Life ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-fiction
I don't know what to do with this book. I was l leaning toward a low 3 until the final chapter, but that made me want to give it a 1. Ugh! The whole story of April made me irate. Demonizing feminists and those who want to bring attention to human trafficking (especially in Atlanta, which is a hub for trafficking in the US) is really low. Not what I expected from this writer. Also unexpected was the tidal wave of chick lit tropes. Sally's story was a rehash of a million books with young women hav ...more
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J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement, Maine and The Engagements. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. Courtney’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Men’s Vogue, and the New York Observer, among ...more
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“Women leave their marriages when they can't take any more. Men leave when they find someone new.” 135 likes
“She thought about him all the time - not so much about Doug the individual, but rather about the nature of love, and the shock of learning how quickly it could disappear.” 87 likes
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