Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Title: The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Personal Copy
This book would be rated: PG-13

It's been a few weeks since I finished reading The Interestings, and sometimes I appreciate a little distance before I start writing a review. This summer, I've listened to a lot of short, engrossing, action-packed books, but the books I've actually read have been longer, more sprawling, and more about internal conflict. The Interestings definitely falls into this category. The book centers on a group of teenagers who meet at camp in the early 1970s and then follows their lives up to the present day. That first summer is transformative for Julie, who starts out as a shy and gawky kid from the suburbs, whose father recently died. But these other kids, Ash and her brother Goodman, Jonah, and Ethan, all city kids, most of them with lots of money, like her for who she is. Julie quickly becomes Jules, she and Ash become best friends. Ethan loves her, but as much as Jules thinks he's fantastic and a genius, she's also a little bit repulsed by him. But she hangs onto that love to sustain her.

Over the next decade, Goodman is accused of rape and flees the country, Jonah realizes that he's gay, and Ash and Ethan marry each other. Soon the couple finds enormous success, which becomes a source of conflict for Jules, who marries a nice guy but never achieves much financial success. But Jules still loves Ethan and Ash, so she struggles to keep her jealousies in check.

I'm surprised I've never come across Meg Wolitzer's novels before. They remind me of some of the other great novelists writing now-- the Elizabeth Strouts and Jonathan Franzens. While some readers might say that not much actually happens over the course of the novel, that wasn't what made the book interesting to me as a reader. It was the details Wolitzer included about life in New York, and Jules's thoughts and conversations that kept me reading, and that now keep me thinking about the book, even weeks later.

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