Book Review: The Interestings

The Interestings

“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

Title: The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Format: Audio
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

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.

–Adapted from Goodreads

My Thoughts:

In reading the synopsis for this novel, I instantly recalled the glorious, carefree summers of my pre-teen and teenage years. I spent my days lounging around the living room reading novels and dreaming about the future, and my nights indulging my childhood passion: musical theater.  I attended theater camps, participated in community theater shows, and volunteered at the theater whenever I had the chance. I loved being immersed in that wacky and creative atmosphere, and like the main character, Jules, in The Interestings I was certain my future lay within a theater’s comforting walls. Of course, a career in the arts is not the path my life nor most of the characters in The Interestings takes, and the disappointment, envy, and eventual acceptance of this fact comprises much of Wolitzer’s new novel.

The novel opens with the introduction of the group of teenagers who dub themselves “The Interestings” at a summer camp for the arts in the 1970’s. Much of the novel is told through the perspective of Julie (aka Jules) Jacobson, who has recently lost her father and finds solace in theater and the group of privileged teenagers who befriend her. The bond formed between the group that summer changes Julie’s life, and the rest of the novel follows “the interestings” through the years that follow.

I really enjoyed this novel and many of the questions it raised, such as “am I who I thought I would be when I was child?” Most of us grow up with big childhood dreams or at least have a vision of the interesting life we will have when we are grown. A select few actually accomplish these lofty goals, while most of us end up pursuing more ordinary life roles. In The Interestings, Jules aspires to be an actress as a young adult, but eventually gives up on this dream and becomes a social worker instead. While watching her friends succeed, she gets envious and bitter which causes her to overlook the beauty in her “ordinary” life.

Although I found Julie’s malcontent to be kind of annoying at times, I did think it was so true. There are so many people in the world focused on what they don’t have that they miss out on what is right in front of them. In fact, I think my favorite character in the book is Julie’s Husband, Dennis, who is wonderfully grounded in the ordinary. Dennis is someone who is comfortable with himself and his “ordinary” life. He has a great line in the book when he announces to Jules during an argument that “the interesting aren’t all that interesting,” which causes Jules to sort of let go of her fixed (and frankly warped) idea of specialness.

At its core, I think this is a book about self-reinvention. Throughout the novel, each character confronts many situations where the expectations for their lives don’t match up to the reality they are living. Whether its Julie working as a social worker, Dennis battling chronic depression, or Ethan’s inability to connect with his autistic son, each character finds a way to accept and in some cases even embrace life’s curve balls. As in real life, no character is immutable and each has the ability to change their situation or at least their perspective of it.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and have found myself thinking back on it time and again. The characters are beautifully written, and I enjoyed seeing how they evolved over time.

What Others Had To Say:

The Relentless Reader

Literary Lindsey

My Review In Three Lines:

  1. Rating: 4/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The theme of self-reinvention and learning to be happy with (and love) the life you have
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: I thought the ending was a bit abrupt

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.
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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12.0 | Ex Libris
  2. susanbright
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 12:05:46

    Our book club is meeting this week to discuss The Interestings. Thanks for your review!

    Reply

  3. Trackback: My 2013 Reading Challenges: How Did I Do? | Ex Libris

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