By Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead April 2013
From the library
Sigh....I did that thing again. I read the book, wrote down some thoughts, and then forgot to finish my review. I read this book back in the beginning of July Are there any people out there who haven't read this book yet? If you haven't read this yet, read on!
One summer, a group of teens assemble in a teepee at arts camp. Ethan is an animator, Cathy is devoted to dance, Ash is an aspiring actress/director, Jonah plays the guitar, Goodman toys with architecture, and Julie is the new recruit to this circle of friends, trying to figure out exactly where she belongs. They dub themselves “The Interestings” because they are, of course, more fascinating than their fellow campers and the general population. The bonds created that summer will last a lifetime and The Interestings follows this group of artists through their successes and failures in art, relationships, and life.
The Interestings can perhaps best be described as a saga. As opposed to a Russian saga like Anna Karenina or an early American saga like Gone with the Wind, this book is a contemporary American saga that brings its characters from the 1970s to the present day. Wolitzer excels at indicating the time period without beating you over the head with it. But her greatest skill is perfectly writing these character at different points in their lives – the invincible teens, the uncertain artists in their mid-twenties, new parents, and middle aged people looking back at the years that have passed.
The central theme throughout the book is the idea of success in art. Each character starts out with great aspirations to be known as an actress, an artist, or a dancer. Some of them do achieve fame beyond their wildest dreams, but others find that they are going nowhere and begin the painful process of giving up a dream to pursue something that will keep the bills paid and food in the fridge. Success doesn't always mean happiness in your creation or in the personal life that you put on hold. The characters learn that sometimes making music just for yourself is more rewarding than playing in front of hundreds.
While meeting at arts camp is something that will cause some readers to reminisce, every reader can relate to the ways that relationships change over a lifetime. Wolitzer has written a very intelligent and dare I say interesting story about making art, finding success, and making relationships work. Although The Interestings was heralded as one of the great books of this summer, it would be a perfect book to curl up with on a cool fall night.