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FICTION/Sullivan, J. Courtney
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New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2009.
1st ed
Physical Description
324 p. ; 25 cm
Main Author
J. Courtney Sullivan (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Introducing feminist chick lit in the form of first-time novelist Sullivan's diverting parody of life at Smith College. When Sally, Bree, April, and Celia meet during first-year orientation, they quickly bond as they navigate the tricky rules of their new home: no "girl-on-girl" showers before 10 a.m.; no meat in the dining hall unless it has a vegan sidekick; no (well, some) clothes during the opening convocation ceremony. As best friends, all their glories and foibles come to light, including Sally's lurid affair with an aging professor and Bree's switch from straight to gay despite her family's frowning disapproval. All postcollege transitions are also captured, from one-night stands to grad schools, first jobs and first homes, a wedding and a baby. When April, the radical in the group, begins to work with her idol, a "divisive" feminist known for extreme tactics, a secondary plot about human trafficking emerges, switching the mood from nostalgia to suspense. Sullivan's debut crackles with intelligent observations about the inner sanctum of the all-women's elite (yet scholarship-laden) college life. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Smith College brought Celia, Bree, Sally, and April together, and post-college troubles keep them close. A first novel from Smith-educated Sullivan; with a four-city tour. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Graduating from college and moving into the "real world" is a rite of passage for many people. For Celia, Bree, April, and Sally, it's bittersweet to leave the confines of Smith College, where they all met. As first years, they bonded not only because they were new but because they lived together in the worst rooms in King House, third-floor maids' quarters. Celia's a Catholic schoolgirl, April an angry young feminist, and Bree the Southern belle who is already engaged, while Sally has just lost her mother to cancer. Despite these differences, they become best friends, and what they share at Smith carries them into their later lives—even as they go on to very different realities. Sullivan's first novel is a coming-of-age tale of young women in contemporary society where some of the battles of the women's movement have been won—but not all. The characters still face issues about sexuality, equality, and cultural expectations, and Sullivan's intriguing treatment partly refreshes the novel's familiar concept. For fans of contemporary women's fiction.—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH [Page 72]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

It isn't quite love at first sight when Celia, Sally, Bree and April meet as first-year hall mates at Smith College in the late 1990s. Sally, whose mother has just died, is too steeped in grief to think about making new friends, and April's radical politics rub against Celia and Bree's more conventional leanings. But as the girls try out their first days of independence together, the group forms an intense bond that grows stronger throughout their college years and is put to the test after graduation. Even as the young women try to support each other through the trials of their early twenties, various milestones—Sally's engagement, Bree's anomalous girlfriend, April's activist career—only seem to breed disagreement. Things come to a head the night before Sally's wedding, when an argument leaves the friends seething and silent; but before long, the women begin to suspect that life without one another might be harder than they thought. Sullivan's novel quickly endears the reader to her cast, though the book never achieves the heft Sullivan seems to be striving for. (June) [Page 34]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Celia, Bree, Sally, and April first meet as college freshmen and over a period of six years experience both happiness and disappointment as they to find fulfilling love relationships, deal with changes within their families, and pursue successful careers.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The bestselling author of Maine brings us 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.  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 a bottle of vodka in her suitcase; beautiful Bree pines for the fiancé she left behind in Savannah; Sally, preppy and obsessively neat, 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. Written with radiant style and a wicked sense of humor, Commencement follows these unlikely friends through college and the years beyond, brilliantly capturing the complicated landscape facing young women today.