Book Title: The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Pages: 464 e-pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Date Published: April 9th, 2013
Date Read: April 12th, 2014
Format: ebook on my nook
Cover Love: When you need to catch a reader’s eye, make your cover a RAINBOW! This definitely stands out. Even the spine looks beautiful on the shelf. And while none of the characters are really painters, I can appreciate the nod to artistic brush strokes in the cover design.
“The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In “The Interestings,” Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful–true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, “The Interestings” explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.”
What I’d Add: Such a promising synopsis! And I kind of wish it didn’t point out which of the campers becomes successful…seems to me that synopses are getting full of spoilers lately.
It’s Sorta Like: It’s a part coming of age, part flawed adulthood documentary. Think that Young Adult movie with Charlize Theron, plus a close, kind of backstabby group of friends.
My Grade: C
The Interestings sounds like a good premise: a set of kids with the burning beginnings of talent who meet and bond at a summer camp for the arts. The book promises to follow these talented teens through their different lives to explore “their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction.”
The book does all this. But in a needling, annoying fashion that leaves every character’s story arch unresolved and ultimately, unsatisfactory.
The main protagonist, Jules (formerly Julie, although that gets dropped immediately at camp when she so desperately wants to be part of these people she perceives as more talented and popular than her) is the most annoying. She spends 90% of the book ranting her jealousy about the same set of people from camp, repeating the same annoyances to her beleaguered husband. Jules is never satisfied. With anything. Ever. Even through successful romantic relationships, a marriage that is still intact by the end of the book, and a daughter who still loves and supports her parents. Yes, it is true to life that some people are never satisfied, even when their life seems pretty plush. But if I never hear Jules whine again about her friends’ more successful lives, it will be too soon.
The Big Event in the novel, a highly dramatic scenario that should be the crux of the novel, is abandoned several times. Without giving away who or what is involved (not that it matters, since it is smoothed over almost immediately and is never resolved), characters take sides in the matter, bicker with each other for much of their lives about what really happened and what it really means….and then eventually give up on discussing it because I guess it’s just become so exhausting.
The writing style suffers through terribly unsexy sex scenes that are rather frequent and dispassionate, gaps in time and discussion that could deepen each character (and thus, none of the central characters are truly round or complete), and lack of an interesting, compelling event that could make this novel live up to its name.
The premise is promising, the beginning a solid start. But you never get to know anyone enough in this book to actually like or care about them. Disappointing.