I came across The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer by accident, when last Tuesday I wanted to find a TV programme to pass some time before I left for work. I propped up my Kindle, playing the first thing I found. The Interestings. It was so good that within the first five or ten minutes I new I needed to read the book. And for the next few days, I did.
“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.” GoodReads.
To say that this book made me cry may not be a surprise to any long time readers of my blog. It hasn’t been the first, nor will it be the last, to do so. Yet, I feel the need to somehow explain how bereft this book has made me feel, how normal tears became loud sobs.
Wolitzer has created a world so real. Her characters are rich and well-formed, living, breathing, flawed wonders. Just like Jules you will long to be one of The Interestings, all the while learning that interesting is in the eye of the beholder and while some people make it big there is no shame in living small. Each character self-obsesses over their actions and their friends. They age together, each experiencing totally different things, but it is their friendships that save and hurt them the most.
Jules meets Ash, Ethan, Jonah, Cathy and Goodman in the summer of ’74 at Spirit in the Woods camp. Her Dad has just died and suddenly this group of popular people make her feel special and new. As the years progress, Goodman does something unspeakable and he and Cathy are pulled from the group. Unwillingly and purposefully.
Jules and Ethan are part of the reason I loved this book, where their love and friendship goes so far beyond romance. They never become a couple, and that is the most natural thing you could imagine in the novel, this isn’t a book of wish fulfillment. Because love is more than romance, it has so many branches, and Wolitzer is a master of representing them.
She is also a master of reality, of how life can throw you curve balls and there isn’t always a fairy godmother to save the day (or a bank balance big enough). Sometimes life is boring, sometimes you have an adventure, and sometimes you’re a selfish idiot who takes people for granted. This strange group of people stay together because they comfort one another in ways outsiders couldn’t. They all want to belong, but only with each other does belonging allow them to be as much of themselves as they are able to share.
And, to revisit the above, what I loved most of all is that interesting is what you make it, and what you see in other people. It’s subjective, and what is interesting to you may be irritating to everyone else.
The Interestings is life, written down, it’s a novel that takes you in and makes you’re one of the protagnists. I can’t recommend it enough.
What books have blown you away recently?