Meg Wolitzer || The Interestings

On the internet I read that the Interestings was the book to read in 2013. America was lyrical about it. I reserved it at the library and had to wait for months to finally pick it up. When I started reading about the group of six friends who call themselves the Interestings I felt a slight disappointment come over me. Was this the novel to be read in 2013 for which I had waited several months? It was quite alright (though I kept on falling asleep while reading it in bed) but outstanding? No, not really. Finally having finished it, I started thinking what my problem was with The Interestings. It turned out to be twofold: The Interestings is on the one hand all-encompassing, nothing gets skipped in theĀ tale about six friends who met at summer camp whereas on the other hand it does not go deep enough. Two examples to explain what I mean. Main character Jules is jealous of her friends Ash and Ethan. Whereas Jules and her husband Dennis have to work hard to financially get along, Ethan and Ash have become very successful (helped in some way by her influential father who has managed to pull some strings and in the case of Ash, by the success of her husband). At the start of the novel Wolitzer makes a case of this jealousy by having Jules and Dennis read the card Ash and Ethan send each year at Christmas in which they elaborate on their successful year. And yes, Jules is quite nasty about it, Wolitzer however, lets the item go. It is mentioned from time to time, it is clear that it bothers Jules, that it sometimes puts a strain on her marriage but no explanation is given as to why Jules is this jealous of two people who have been her best friends since summer camp. Wolitzer furthermore makes very light of the fact that Jules never really questions the way Ash and her family deny her brother Goodman having raped his ex-girlfriend Cathy. Apparently Jules is that desperate to belong to this family that she never thinks twice about what might have happened. Again, it makes me wonder why. Is knowing that her father died when she was young and that her mother and sister are ever that suburban sufficient? No. That Wolitzer is capable of showing depth in character she makes clear when she takes a small sidestep into the life of Jonah, one of the ‘minor’ interestings. An episode in his life in which he was drugged by an older musician is described beautifully and thoughtfully, Jonah – though one of the minor characters in The Interestings – comes alive instantly. It made me wonder why Jonah became my favourite character whilst I kept on struggling with Ash, Ethan and Jules. The answer was simple. In the first place because Wolitzer tells about their lives in detail but almost as in passing. We are given facts and stereotypes not personalities. And because of that fact I felt that I was reading a novel that made me think about all those other novels, tv-series and movies about a privileged group of friends who meet at summer camp (even Jules, though not as successful as her friends, turns out to become a pretty good psychologist) in the US telling about all their worries, problems, successes etc. I wished Wolitzer had dug deeper into the more important questions, that she would have invested in really talking about Jules, Ash and Ethan and about their long lasting friendship. I feel that by being giving as many details and facts about their lives as possible she has done Jules, Ash and Ethan seriously wrong.

Interestings

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About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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