Synopses & Reviews
“Do you know what it took for Socrates enemies to make him stop pursuing the truth?”
Storied, fiercely competitive Mariana Academy was founded with a serious honor code; its reputation has been unsullied for decades. Now a long-dormant secret society, Prisom's Party, threatens its placid halls with vigilante justice, exposing students and teachers alike for even the most minor infraction.
Iris Dupont, a budding journalist whose only confidant is the chain-smoking specter of Edward R. Murrow, feels sure she can break into the ranks of The Devils Advocate, the Partys underground newspaper, and there uncover the source of its blackmail schemes and vilifying rumors. Some involve the schools new science teacher, who also seems to be investigating the Party. Others point to an albino student who left school abruptly ten years before, never to return. And everything connects to a rare book called Marvelous Species. But the truth comes with its own dangers, and Iris is torn between her allegiances, her reporter's instinct, and her own troubled past.
The Year of the Gadfly is an exhilarating journey of double-crosses, deeply buried secrets, and the lifelong reverberations of losing someone you love. Following in the tradition of classic school novels such as A Separate Peace, Prep, and The Secret History, it reminds us how these years haunt our lives forever.
J. Courtney Sullivan’s celebrated debut novel 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.
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.
J. Courtney Sullivan's celebrated debut novel 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.
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 fiance 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.
In this sparkling debut novel, four very different young women develop a bond when they are assigned to the same dorm in their freshman year of college. When they reunite for a wedding four years after graduation, their friendships have changed, but they remain fiercely devoted to one another.
In this gutsy debut novel, flawed but unsinkable Claudia Silver cuts a wide comic swath in her misguided attempts to find love and security in 1990s New York City.
In this gutsy debut novel, flawed but unsinkable Claudia Silver cuts a wide comic swath through 1990s New York City in her misguided attempts to find love and happiness.
Estranged from her bohemian Brooklyn family and fired for an impropriety at work, Claudia Silver is officially in over her head. When her younger sister lands on her doorstep urgently in need of help, twenty-something Claudia desperately wants to offer the rescue that she herself has longed for. But Claudia missteps dramatically, straight into a disastrous love affair that disrupts three very different New York households. Ultimately, she discovers the resilient nature of love where she least expects it—among her own family.
Claudia Silver to the Rescue is the firece yet tender chronicle of the many humiliations and occasional triumphs of a young woman determined to wrest her identity from the spectacular wreckage of her mistake. Uncomfortably hilarious, quintessentially human, Claudia is an unforgettable heroine who shoots for the stars and hits the ceiling.
"This terrific first novel is a twisted thriller set at a private school where bad things happen to teens on a leafy campus. Part Dead Poets Society, part Heathers. Entirely addictive."—Glamour
About the Author
JENNIFER MILLER, the author of Inheriting the Holy Land: An American’s Search for Hope in the Middle East, holds a BA from Brown University, an MS in journalism from Columbia, and an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Men’s Health, the Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com, and others. She is a native of Washington, DC, and currently lives in Brooklyn with all the other writers.
Table of Contents
1. Fast & Sloppy 1
2. Liars Gap 45
3. Dial 9 to Get Out 135
Reading Group Guide
1. What are your thoughts on single-sex education?
2. Do you think Commencement presents an accurate description of a women's college?
3. In the novel the character Sally becomes involved with a professor. Do you think student/teacher relationships are more common at women's colleges? Or is that an out-dated myth?
4. This book has a strong feminist message. What do you take away from this?
5. Commencement's protagonists graduate from Smith in 2002. Gloria Steinem compares Commencement to Mary McCarthy's The Group, which depicts a group of eight young women who graduate from Vassar in 1933. And Gloria Steinem, herself, graduated from Smith College in 1956. How do you think these three generations of experiences at women's colleges differ and how do they remain the same?
6. Each character thought they had a very clear notion of who they were when entering college. How did each grow and change during their time there and what impact did their unique friendships have on each other?
7. Do you think all of the protagonists in Commencement are feminists?
8. On page 155, Sally feels her friends have not celebrated her engagement enough and she remarks “The real sting in it came from the fact that the same women who had counseled her through her grief for four years at college wanted nothing to do with her joy. Perhaps it took more to feel truly happy for a friend than it did to feel sympathy for her.” Do you think Sally is right, or do you think other emotions are at play for her friends?
9. When Bree and Lara visit Lara's boss's house, they meet Nora and Roseanna and their son, Dylan. Bree seems to find them ridiculous while Lara embraces their lifestyle. How does this incident speak to the roles they play in their relationship and how does Bree's family situation color her perceptions of this afternoon?
10. Each of the four women in Commencement has a different kind of mother and a different kind of relationship with her. How is each girl a reflection of her mother and how do their bonds (or severed bonds) influence their decisions?
11. Poet John Malcolm Brinnin once said, “Proximity is nine-tenths of friendship.” How true is that for these women?
12. What is your favorite college memory?
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