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1.0 out of 5 starsThe plot goes everywhere and nowhere
Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2018
I thought the story captured the time period well, but I did not find the triangular relationship among the principals realistic. It preached the importance of influence and money in establishing the career of an artist, but warned us that influence and money cannot protect you from other misfortunes in life. I knew that anyway. The prose was banal. The story was a bore and an overlong one at that. I finished it only because I'd bought it, and my book club was going to discuss it.
At first I didn’t like this book, finding the six Interestings to be rather shallow and even a bit snotty. But as they reach adulthood, even though the characters are, for the most part, rather chilly, especially teenaged protagonist Jules, things begin happening so fast that the book becomes a lot more fun to read.
Jules, still chilly, and beautiful, rich Ash remain best friends and this feeds the over-arching theme of the book. Social worker Jules can’t quite imagine Ethan and Ash really want to be friends with her and her ultrasound tech husband because they are ordinary and Ethan and Ash have become extraordinarily rich and famous through Ethan’s talent and Ash’s family money. Jules nearly ruins their friendship with her constant emphasis on whether they could actually like her and her ordinariness and her constant sometimes comic, sometimes bitter comparing of the very rich and the average, the world-famous and the rest of us.
Do we all really have to be on the cover of People Magazine to be acceptable? She goes around and around about it, becoming obsessive and boring, no matter how much reassurance she gets. It becomes very tedious to the reader.
I found the most interesting character in the book not to be one of the original group — not An Interesting at all. When another character says, and please pardon me, I listened to this and don’t have the actual words in front of me, “Well Jacobson, I see you got yourself a real man,” I smiled because he was a delightful character and someone truly interesting.
The narrator was very talented, able to do 20 or more distinguishable voices, and I appreciated the quick pace.
3.0 out of 5 starsComplex Character Development, Anticlimactic Storytelling
Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2017
Ultimately I find myself very perplexed about my feelings for this book. For the first 400 pages or so, I couldn't put it down. The characters, their personalities, and every situation are described in such detail (often with surprising precision) that you can picture everything perfectly, as if watching an expertly-shot movie that spans decades, and therefore end up caring about these people and what will happen to them.
But somewhere in the 400 range, it becomes painfully evident that it's going nowhere interesting. She sets high stakes in the secrets the characters keep from each other, leaving the reader expecting their endings to fit a perfect work of fiction rather than mirroring the mundanity of actual life.
SPOILER ALERT - it's the latter of the above. A decades-long secret outed by the simple act of not knowing one was on speaker phone? Come on. The book's felon on the lam never caught? WTF. Skin cancer being another's ultimate demise? Bo-ring!
3.0 out of 5 starsI still don't know how I feel about this book
Reviewed in the United States on October 1, 2014
I thought the characters were well developed, mostly, and the writing is great, but I’m not sure I could outline a plot for you. It’s really just the story of a group of friends through life. In my opinion, no one thing happens that becomes the main focus or arc of the book. There are a few big things left hanging. (Spoiler) There is an alleged rape in the book, and you never really know if it happened (I think it did).
There are characters that I wish the author had followed, and some I don’t understand why she followed. I wish she had explored adult Cathy more. And while I loved Jonah’s character, I’m not so sure why she chose him over Cathy or others, to follow. But I can’t complain too much because Jonah might be my favorite character. I just think the book could have been the same if he wasn’t in it as much. Maybe better. I also enjoyed Jules’ husband. I don’t count him as a main character, but he has a big part in the book. The man is a saint, I tell you.
Overall, I would recommend the book if you want to think about friendships and the way they change through life. But also only if you are prepared to be left somewhat unsatisfied at the end. Though I guess life is sometimes like that. So maybe the book succeeded in that aspect. Sometimes life is just a series of events and not just one big love story or one big event or production. That’s what this book is like. We follow a group of 6 people who met at camp through a series of events in their lives. So don’t look for one central story. But it’s worth the read if you are okay with that.
3.0 out of 5 starsInteresting writing style but not a great story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 17, 2017
I absolutely adored the first part of the book and couldn't put it down - the characters were likeable and there was a good amount of drama to get your teeth into. The main premise of the book explores the presence of envy among friendship groups which is common in today's society and really relatable. Unfortunately this focus was quickly lost when heading into part two of the book which was a big old chunk of pages where hardly ANYTHING happens. As this section of nothingness continued, I really began to dislike the main character Jules who became quite selfish and far too nostalgic for my liking.
Despite the story itself being a bit meh, I did enjoy Wolitzer's interesting writing style and she has a great method of subtly heading back in time when creating more depth to the characters. She also did a great job at highlighting key affairs that happened across history which is rare in a coming of age novel.
The story was definitely only 2 stars but I did enjoy Wolitzer's writing so hence why I've marked it up.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 6, 2018
I really enjoyed this novel, it's a book driven by the complexity of relationships, whether it be marriage or friendship. If you like plot driven novels then this isn't for you. I got throughly involved in the characters and their lives and was so sorry when it finished Each character you could analyse and find good and bad. There are lots of themes in the novel like feminism, homosexuality, class, money and illness. A really good read.
4.0 out of 5 starsEngaging story with well-drawn characters (mostly)
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 14, 2020
The concept of this novel is not particularly original - a group of teenagers meet at an arty summer camp (Spirit of the Woods) and their lives remain intertwined in different ways as they move into adulthood over the coming decades. Except they don't all really grow up. Jules, in many ways the central character, never emotionally leaves Spirit in the Woods and actually returns for a summer as camp coordinator with her husband Dennis when they are in their 50s. Not surprisingly, one message is that nostalgia isn't a good basis for making major life decisions. The success of the original friends, self-styled 'Interestings', diverges widely. A central theme is Jules' resentment of Ethan and Ash's success and fortune in creative arts compared with her and Dennis's modest lives. In Ethan and Ash's success and happy lives though there is a 'locked door', a secret that the reader knows is going to blow things apart eventually. The resolution of their stories is a kind of hubris, though again not an original theme. There are other reckonings with the past for less central characters too. The characters and their lives are well-drawn and remained with me for a while after reading. The book does flag around three-quarter way through and the relationships between the main characters becomes repetitive. The story picks up again as they each address mid-life crises. What I did not like at all was the treatment of Mo, Ethan's autistic son, who is characterized mostly as a problem for everyone else especially Ethan who is too much a man-child to be a father to him. There is a hint of Mo's own creative capacity but this is undeveloped and he remains a foil for portraying Ethan and Ash's not quite so perfect lives. Overall this is well worth reading and is an engaging story.
5.0 out of 5 starssorry every time I had to put it down
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 19, 2015
I was totally absorbed by the slow unravelling of these people's lives and watching what they became. Such insight - different people, different motivations, different ways of coping with the vicissitudes of life. There's lots to recognise, and the way the characters' lives are separate but woven together is constantly fascinating. Masterly writing. Deeply drawn characters. It's like a long, slow process of discovery, all of it adding up to something. It's my first experience of Meg Wolitzer. I'll be reading her others now for sure.
2.0 out of 5 starsThe interestings weren't very interesting
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 2, 2020
I just couldn't get into the characters in this book. I really didn't like the main characters or any of the other characters for that matter. They were quite whingy about what was really a pretty privileged life. It meandered and I probably wouldn't have finished it if it wasn't a book club book.