About a million books ago, during CBR3, I read and enjoyed a book called Maine, about Irish Catholics growing up in the Boston area and vacationing in Maine. It hit close to home for me, an Irish Catholic from the Boston area who frequently vacationed in Maine. It wasn’t great literature, but a quick read filled with realistic characters and some interesting perspective on all things Boston Irish (the Coconut Grove plot was enough to hook me). A few weeks ago at the library, there was a cute little display of “Beach Reads”, and I saw Commencement on the rack, Sullivan’s novel before Maine.
This was totally a beach read. There was sand stuck all up in the back book jacket and water stains all over the book. Seriously. It reeked of Bain Du Soleil. This book was well-loved by beach goers.
And it was fine for what it was.
Commencement tells the tale of four girls (Celia, an Irish Catholic from the Boston area; Sally, a rich private school girl from upscale Wellesley; April, an angry activist from Chicago; and Bree, a beautiful southern belle) who meet up as “first years” (never use the word FRESHMAN) at Smith College. They become best friends and their story is told via flashbacks intermingled with present day narration as they gather for Sally’s wedding, and later after a tragedy strikes.
Sullivan is a graduate of Smith, so I felt that her description of the day-to-day life at an all women’s school were pretty spot-on. Beautiful campus, quirky town, strong friendships, and lots and lots of self-discovery (politics, relationships, sexuality, etc).
I much preferred the in-college story to the out-of-college story. The subplot about April working for a radical feminist filmmaker that gets her into trouble was not for me.
Also, I am really, really tired of how so many books (I’m talking to you, Sarah Dessen) throw a date rape sub-plot into a story and then just kind of…let it disappear into thin air without any real resolution.
I think I’ll continue to read Sullivan’s future books (her new one comes out next week), because I like the Boston tie to them. They make me a little bit homesick, but in a good way.