From best-selling author Meg Wolitzer a dazzling, panoramic novel about what becomes of early talent, and the roles that art, money, and even envy can play in close friendships.
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 15 is not always enough to propel someone through life at age 30; 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.
©2013 Megan Wolitzer (P)2013 Penguin Audio
After her father dies of pancreatic cancer, Julie Jacobsen's Long Island mother sends her––on scholarship––to Spirit In the Woods, a summer camp mostly populated by the artsy teen spawn of privileged Manhattanites. Julie is surprised to be adopted into a circle of kids above her sophistication level, appreciated for her acerbic wit and christened "Jules" by them.
In the self-styled "Interestings" group are sister and brother Ash and Goodman Wolf; son of a Joan Baez-ish folkie, Jonah Bay; and fellow scholarship camper and aspiring cartoonist, Ethan Figman. Ash, warm-hearted, beautiful and earnestly feminist, will become Jules's best friend. Ethan is awkward and goofy, but warmhearted and hugely talented.
All of the Interestings have ambitions; Jules expresses it as wanting to have a "big life." We follow the group from their teenage days, during the Watergate era, through to their middle age, and see what happens as they grow into their adult lives, some of which are far bigger than others––at least if you're measuring by name recognition and money. As the old saying goes, though, life is what happens while you're making other plans, and we see that play out in this story.
Anchored in its time and place, the tale spans the bad old days when Manhattan was filthy and crime-ridden, the beginning of the AIDS era, the Moonies, foodies, the rise (and fall) of the yuppie and the investment banker and 9/11. All the personal landmarks are the real story, though: career achievements and disappointments, marriage, children, friendship, loss, illness, death. Biggest of all, the slow growth of the idea that happiness, or at least satisfaction, can be found in a life that isn't so big or interesting.
Audio: Jen Tullock was not a good narrator. Her voice was nasal and she often delivered character voices were in an inappropriately whiny and singsong-y style. It was grating and detracted a lot from my enjoyment of the story. During the middle of the book, there was a long period when it sounded like she had a lozenge or gum in her mouth.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
At first I was worried that I was reading a book for highschoolers, then things started to happen and the plot and characters matured. This book is about the geek kid, the unpopular one. Then she grows up and life happens. We are all lured by our past at one time or another and these characters interact in interesting ways. I liked this book a lot and found it interesting.
I read and listen to books. I drink tea. I sleep like a cat and wished I lived in Hawaii.
This book follows 6 people that live in NYC (but only 4 intensively) that met at a summer camp for the arts in the 70’s when they are teenagers. They become best friends and stay connected throughout the next 40 or so years. The book is mostly told thru Jules Jacobson’s eyes, the most normal one of the bunch. Jules and her friends are all interested in becoming artists of one form or another, but only one of them actually becomes famous for his talents. They all differ in their levels of talent and creativity and we see how this affects each of them. There is not a ton of plot in this book unless you count normal life as a plot. People get married, have babies, become famous, don’t become famous, experience death of loved ones, and a whole slew of other life experiences. I guess the getting famous part or knowing anyone famous isn’t really part of any normal life, but the rest of the book is about “normal” life occurrences. There is a bit of heavier drama that happens between 2 of the friends early on in the book, but it isn’t really the main focus of the story. I found all of this to be interesting, even though I think “The Interestings” is a bit of a misleading title for the book. The friends decide to call themselves this while attending Spirit-In-The-Woods, the summer camp. These people are semi-normal with flawed personalities and I think that’s what makes them interesting to me. These friends differ widely in money, class and fame, especially in relation to Jules. She is not as talented or rich or as beautiful as the others and sometimes this matters and sometimes it doesn’t. As in real life, secrets exist and the reader is left to ponder the morals/ethics behind them. Wolitzer created interesting (no pun intended) enough characters that I ultimately cared what happened to them even if there wasn’t terribly engaging plot twists along the way. I thought there was a bit a of hole in the book when Jules’ and Ash’s children are growing up… somewhere in the early teenage years. I felt that the rest of their lives was explained more thoroughly, but that was only a minor bump I found in the road of “The Interestings.” Wolitzer provides a lot of flashbacks from the past as she moves forward through the story and it can be confusing at times to keep up with the timeline, but after a while I got used to this writing style. Also, she is pretty amazing when it comes to imagery.
Ce n'est pas grave!
Although I am a Meg Wolitzer fan, she really dropped the ball on this one. The story is so boring and implausible that I can barely slog through the last 10 % of the audiobook. The idea of a well known musician drugging a young kid with LSD on numerous occasions to harvest his inherited song writing talent is ludicrous. This book reads like formulaic bad young adult fiction. The good are so good and the bad are so ridiculously portrayed ( I.e. the naughty and nubile Kathy Kiplinger, with the unfortunate you gotta hate her story line of being a fake rape victim) that the only real seeming character is Jule's hapless husband. I must say that the story was not aided by the "Valley Girl" accents and simpering parents' voices created by the narrator. I have come to the conclusion that, with the exception of the occasional character part ( raspy smoker's voice or unique accent) the best narrators do not go overboard on voices because the "man voice" or " lady voice" or "teenage voice" can be so distracting as to alienate the listener and ruin the author's intent for the character. Of course, this is a fine line and not all narrators can pull it off but this already weak book was weakened further by the unlikable voices used. I really didn't feel anything for any of them except for a irritation.
No. Just not a book that will interest the typical reader. Think the professional reviewers got a bit carried away with their asessments.
Maybe. Not a horriible book, just way under achieved expectations based on gushing reviews.
Be more selective in book selection. Exercise Audible's return guarantee.
I gave up about halfway through. The reader is clearly not an actress, merely a reader. Every voice, regardless of age or gender, sounds the same. The only way you can tell who is speaking is if she says the name. Although the book is set in the northeast, everyone has a "Valley Girl" accent, which is especially annoying. I was looking for a good, absorbing story and this is definitely NOT it. The absence of character development and drama makes for a very dull read.
These characters are self indulgent, living in a summer camp past that continues to shape their future. None of them have any redeeming qualities. They are self described "interestings" but only if you are interested in self absorbed characters. I think the lesson here is don't send your kids to camp--unless you want them to be totally incapable of living a life postcamp.
This was a wonderfully written book, with pitch-perfect characterizations and a compelling plot. I found myself repeatedly surprised by the plot twists and the unexpected developments (like the way the characters' kids turned out). The underlying theme of the strength of relationships built as teenagers was fascinating--the relationships built in a couple of summers prove to be the most important relationships of these characters' lives, despite growth and marriage and fights and the rest. The narration was excellent, with subtle shifts in voice and tone to immediately identify the numerous characters, but without sliding into exaggeration. Minor characters were fun and well drawn, too--the camp founders, the Icelandic counselor, the folk singer. They all seemed real. Surprisingly, one of the most likeable characters was a husband who hadn't gone to camp and who wasn't artsy. He provided a nice contrast to the "Interestings." All in all, a beautiful novel.
Lawyer, reader, writer, performer. Just love listening to books and talking about it!
This book made me miserable, BUT true to contemporary literary offerings, it gives alot to consider about the lives and times of these baby boomers. In the end, I'm glad I read it and glad Meg branched out and wrote it.
Here is the unlikely premise, which allows us to explore the thoughts and actions of this generation: Sad and ordinary girl meets the "it" brother and sister at summer artistic camp and is invited into their click of friends. One of them will eventually become the Bill Gates of a Hollywood Cartoon Empire, one will be accused of a crime, one will almost always do the right thing and end up marrying well but will have other sorrows, one will face being gay and get over a childhood trauma, and another will remain the source of comfort in her bitter ordinariness. But they will remain friends throughout the twists and turns of life.
Maybe, maybe not. The Interestings has the potential for some great character development but sorta disappoints with predictability.
With 60s being such a deep field of events, The Interestings could have opened up a little more to the pop culture relative to the characters lives. They seemed a little claustrophobic in their involvements...But hey, you don't see me writing any novels so I give kuods to all authors. And I did listen to the entire book to see what would happen. That is always a gold star for a writer.
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