Friday, March 14, 2014
Review: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Genre: Fiction - Adult - Contemporary
Summary: From Goodreads: "The summer 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 and engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules' 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 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."
Thoughts: I did not enjoy this book. I did not exactly hate it, but when I turned the last page I thought, "That was it? I went through all of that for this?" I must admit I felt a little betrayed. This book has been raved over (and equally despised), but I thought surely I would at least fall in to the middle segment; the segment that didn't love it or hate it.
I was pretty close to hating it.
I appreciated how frankly honest the characters were. I appreciated that they were human and struggled with very human things. I struggled with Jules in thinking that maybe Ash was just a little too perfect - though that did make Jules a little more relate-able.
I think the biggest thing for me was that I felt as if Wolitzer was trying to tackle too many ideas on too few pages and without any distinct rises and falls to break the journey up a bit. It was too much like real life, therefore it was too hard to fully focus on the directions she was trying to pull her readers in. I think if the whole book had primarily focused on Jules' jealousy I would have been able to appreciate what she was going for better. Instead, I felt like the "big epiphany" was incredibly small and that the book just rushed to a close as soon as it happened - the reader wasn't even left with enough information to know if the "epiphany" had actually occurred so that they could imagine what happened after the last page.
The book was a complete let down to me, regardless of Wolitzer's witty moments and interesting vocabulary. It felt flat at the end, and I felt betrayed as the reader.
"Part of the beauty of love was that you didn't need to explain it to anyone else. You could refuse to explain. With love, apparently you didn't necessarily feel the need to explain anything at all."
"...he's infuriated that his e-reader allows him to only know the percentage of a book he's read, not the number of pages. This, he thinks, is 92 percent stupid."
"She recognized that this is how friendships begin: one person reveals a moment of strangeness, and the other person decides just to listen and not exploit it."
Discussion Questions: (Please note, though I do my best to keep spoilers out of my reviews, discussion questions are by nature for people who have read the book and may contain spoilers. Read them at your own risk! Also, if you are responding to one of the discussion questions in the comments below, please put SPOILERS at the beginning of any portions of your comment that might ruin the book for other interested parties. Thank you!)
- What did you think of Jules' (originally Julie) name change? Did it have a greater significance to the book than being the change that allowed her to be accepted in to the group? Did the name change actually change Jules in any way?
- There was a huge emphasis, at least on Jules' part, on the importance of class. Is there such a thing as a higher and lower class? Do classes only exist to those who actually care or is it a widespread idea that permeates everyone and everywhere?
- Jules' jealousy. What did you think about the way she handled this and how deeply it affected her? I must say, this was the one part of the book that I actually felt like was true - at least for me. I could relate to Jules and her feelings, they were so human and raw, even if at times it did feel a bit...obsessive, perhaps.
- Goodman Wolf. What did you think about the fact that he went from so good looking to someone so ugly, both inside and out? Did you think it was poetic justice? What did you think about the way his family treated his whole situation? That was a moral dilemma that plagued me through a lot of the book.
- What did you think about how Ash chose to handle Goodman's situation in regards to Ethan? Does it say anything about Ethan and Ash's relationship that she felt like she couldn't tell him? What about what happened to their relationship when it all came out?
- What did you think about how Ethan continued to have feelings for Jules throughout the entire book even though he was with Ash and Jules was married to Dennis?
Have you read any of Ms. Wolitzer's other novels? How do you think that they compare to The Interestings?