Friday, 20 September 2013

The Interestings

As soon as I saw the reviews for the new Meg Wolitzer novel I wanted to read it. I loved the idea of a summer camp called Spirit-in-the-Woods which is specifically for creative teenagers. 

The Interestings begins in the 1970s with a group of teenagers who are would-be musicians, artists dancers and actors.  Six form a close friendship and call themselves The Interestings.  The novel chronicles their lives to the present day   I do like a 'how they turned out' story. Of course, life doesn't turn out fine for all of them.  Some do very well creatively and financially, some jog along and one spectacularly screws up his life.

I particularly liked all the cultural references which I could identify with being of a similar age to The Interestings - bands like the B52s and Talking Heads, Indian cotton shirts and Levis.  The lives of The Interestings are also influenced by notable events such as the rise and fall of Nixon, the Central Park jogger rape case, the Aids epidemic and, of course, 9/11.

Julie Jacobson is perhaps the most intriguing character.  A girl who is not exceptional but finds her niche among The Interestings as they hang out in teepees at Spirit-in-the Woods engaging in adolescent fumbling and drinking V&T (vodka and Tang).  Julie becomes Jools - popular, funny and accepted.

The Interestings is a big substantial novel.  The sort of book you can lose yourself in and I found myself reading late into the night unable to put it down.  That's not to say it's perfect, there are one or two clunky phrases and a couple of times a character uses an expression I'm pretty sure didn't come from the era they were supposed to be in at the time, but those are minor quibbles. I would highly recommend this book and I'm glad to have discovered Meg Wolitzer. 

I've read some exceptionally good contemporary fiction this year.  As always, I prefer American women writers and I'm now reading The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout.  There are new novels by Donna Tartt and Amy Tan to look forward to in the winter months and, of course, a new Bridget Jones novel by our own Helen Fielding.  Wonder how Bridget will cope with the Internet, blogging and Twitter?! 


Kat said...

Nicola, I've been longing to read this book. I am a fan of Wolitzer, and this seems to be her "big" book. Usually they're very slim satires. Oddly, the one day I intended to buy The Interestings the bookstore didn't have it in stock, and so I forgot about it. I'll have to put this on my library reserve list...

Sunday Taylor said...

Thank you for this review. This is our next book for my book club. I am so glad you like it.

Bellezza said...

Can't wait for the new Donna Tartt. Getting tired of reading My Secret HIstory over and over and over. (Not really. ;)

Ellen said...

Yes, I'm looking forward to reading this one too. There are a lot of excellent American women writers at the moment. Sound like my era too!

JoAnn said...

I need to make time to read this soon -sounds like my kind of book!

Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite writers. The Burgess Boys isn't quite Olive Kitteridge, but it's certainly a worthy effort and I enjoyed it very much.

Anbolyn said...

I've wanted to read The Interestings since it was released, but the library holds list is a mile long (I suspect book clubs are reading it). I might just have to buy it... I am eagerly awaiting the Donna Tartt and need to read The Burgess Boys, too. What have been your favorite books this year?

Thomas Hogglestock said...

I tend to really enjoy Meg Wolitzer's novels. I think my favorite so far is The Wife. You are right they aren't perfect but they certainly and enjoyable and compelling. In fact, now that I think of it, I don't know why The Wife didn't make it onto my recent list of top novels by women. Hmm.

Seeing your post yesterday before I went to the shop to buy MaddAddam, means that I also ended up buying The Interestings.

Arti said...


Would you like to join me and Bellezza for a Proust read-along? Details here.

litlove said...

Oooh! I really want to read this one. I've enjoyed all the other Meg Wolitzer novels I've read and very much like her style. So happy to have your positive recommendation!

Susan said...

I do have this on hold at the library - it will be a while before I get it. It sounds interesting, and I am anxious to try it. I enjoyed your review very much, Nicola.

Thanks for reminding me about the new Bridget Jones, I have the other two and enjoy them, the first one the most. It's a reread every few years for me.

Lilacs said...

Great review, thank you.

Penny O'Neill said...

Now, I must read this. Thank you.

cathy at potterjotter said...

Sounds like a good read - so long as the characters feel real to me, I want to know what happens to them, and that's what this sounds like to me. I must have been on a different planet as I didn't know there was another BJ book! xCathy

Vintage Reading said...

Kat, as always, I will be looking out for your review of The Interestings.

Sunday, hope your group enjoys it as much as I did.

Bellezza, hope you review it on your blog. 700+ pages - I'll be lucky to finish before Christmas!

Ellen, hope you like it as much as I did. A substantial, satisfying read.

JoAnn, yes I agree re The Burgess Boys. I liked it but didn't love it. Amy and Isabelle is still my favourite Strout.

Anbolyn, my favourite contemporary novels so far have been Where'd You Go Bernadette, The Round House and Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld which I haven't got around to reviewing yet. And the Wolitzer of course, It's been a great year for fiction.

Thomas I really want to read Wolitzer's earlier work now. I'll look out for The Wife.

Arti, as usual I'm a day late and a dollar short! Proust terrifies me but I'll check out your readalong.

litlove, I must check out Wolitzer's earlier novels I do like her writing.

Susan, I've now read the new BJ. Very amusing but I think BJ has dated somewhat.

Lilac and Penny, well worth a read, big, substantial and satisfying.

Cathy, I'm not greatly impressed with the new Bridget, funny in parts, though. Yes The Interestings is a very satisfying read, hope you get the chance to give it a go.