Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: "The Interestings" by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings Meg Wolitzer
Published: April 9, 2013
ISBN: 9781594488399
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Recommended....if you like this sort of thing

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.

My Thoughts:
As anyone who has had any contact with me while I was reading this, they already know that I did not enjoy this book.  In fact, I've said--and I stand by the sentiment--that if I, myself, had not been the one to recommend this to my book club, I would have DNF'd it.

I know, what a way to start out a review...but stick with me here.

There were two things that really bothered me about this book.  First of all, I'm just tired of books about the intelligentsia of New York.  I don't mean the actors, writers, etc of New York, but the rich folk whose talent seems to be more due to their birth and trust funds than any skills they develop.  Secondly, the sort of turning point plot line hit a bit too close to home for me as it was very reminiscent of some things going on with people close to me.

But, you see, while those are valid reasons for me not to like this book, I will admit that they are very subjective reasons.  Because of that, I can't base on whether or not I would recommend this book on how I felt about it.  So, let me try to take my feelings out of this and look at the mechanics of the book.

There were things that I did like this book, and things that I found problematic.  I enjoyed Woltizer's writing--it kept me engaged, which is saying a lot since I didn't actually like the book.  She does an impressive job of placing the narrative in time.  This story spans from the early 70's to the current day and the reader always feels like they are in the same time as the characters.  One of  my favorite scenes was near the end (not a spoiler!) where the two elderly owners of the camp are reminiscing about the camp's glory days--I was immediately transported to the scene in Dirty Dancing where Max Kellerman and Tito Suarez are talking about how things are not like they used to be in the Catskills (and it is always a good thing when a book evokes Dirty Dancing!).

I felt the characters well-rounded, but I can't say that I liked any of them.  In fact, the only character I did like was the tertiary Rory, who is fun and wild and doesn't fit at all with the her family and the other characters in the book.  Then there is the issue of Jonah.  There is nothing wrong with the character of Jonah--except the fact that he is completely superfluous to this book.  He could be completely lifted out of the narrative and it would have no impact on the story whatsoever.  In fact, there were times when I completely forgot about him--only to have him turn up and have 100 pages devoted to him.

Ultimately, if I take my own personal feelings out of this book, I will admit that there were some great things about it and some things that just did not work.  Would I recommend it?  Well, I probably wouldn't offer up this title as a recommendation, but if someone asked if they should read it, I'd tell them to go ahead.  They might like it.  Or they might not.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

The Interestings
by Meg Wolitzer

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