Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings is one of those novels that you either love or hate, and after turning the last page, I can happily say that I fell in love with this book. I found it to be highly captivating, with memorable and, yes, interesting characters that seemed so real to me.
From the back cover:
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains, but so much else has changed. Not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. The kind of creativity rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty- not to mention age fifty. Wolitzer follows her characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, resigns herself to a more practical occupation. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing 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. Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters, The Interestings explores the way that class, power, art, money, success, and friendship can shift and tilt precariously over the course of a life.
“People could not get enough of what they had lost, even if they no longer wanted it.”
-Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings
The Interestings follows a group of six people from their teenage years at a summer camp in the Berkshires to complicated adulthood in their fifties. Jules Jacobson is the main voice of the story, though friends Ethan, Ash, Jonah, and camp directors Manny and Edie make frequent appearances. One of the things I appreciated most about these characters is that they felt so natural and realistic; each person had their imperfections, and those flaws made them who they are.
The only complaint I have about The Interestings is that I wanted more, specifically more on Jules’s teenage life outside of Spirit-in-the-Woods camp: more of her life during the school year, more of an explanation of her father’s death, etc. Though the novel is over 500 pages (depending on the edition), I believe it was missing some key background information that could have gone to great heights to improve the story.
“You didn’t always need to be the dazzler, the firecracker, the one who cracked everyone up, or made everyone want to sleep with you, or be the one who wrote and starred in the play that got the standing ovation. You could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting.”
-Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings
Meg Wolitzer expertly captures the human experience and the flaws that sometimes, unfortunately, define who we are. The Interestings is a novel about art, love, life, and death told through an ensemble of characters who have certainly experienced them all. I would highly recommend this novel and I look forward to reading more of Wolitzer’s work!
You can find this book on Goodreads and Amazon.