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The Interestings: A Novel
by Meg Wolitzer

Published: 2013-04-09
Kindle Edition : 480 pages
55 members reading this now
106 clubs reading this now
30 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
“Remarkable . . . With this book [Wolitzer] has surpassed herself.”—The New York Times Book Review

"A victory . . . The Interestings secures Wolitzer's place among the best novelists of her generation. . . . She's every bit as literary as Franzen or Eugenides. But the very ...
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Introduction

“Remarkable . . . With this book [Wolitzer] has surpassed herself.”—The New York Times Book Review

"A victory . . . The Interestings secures Wolitzer's place among the best novelists of her generation. . . . She's every bit as literary as Franzen or Eugenides. But the very human moments in her work hit you harder than the big ideas. This isn't women's fiction. It's everyone's."—Entertainment Weekly (A)


From New York Times–bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a new novel that has been called "genius" (The Chicago Tribune), “wonderful” (Vanity Fair), "ambitious" (San Francisco Chronicle), and a “page-turner” (Cosmopolitan), which The New York Times Book Review says is "among the ranks of books like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot."

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 fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; 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.


Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: This knowing, generous and slyly sly new novel follows a group of teenagers who meet at a summer camp for artsy teens in 1974 and survive as friends through the competitions and realities of growing up. At its heart is Jules (nee Julie, she changes it that first summer to seem more sophisticated) Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress who comes to realize sheâ??s got more creative temperament than talent; her almost boyfriend Ethan Figman, the true genius in the bunch (heâ??s a cartoonist); musician Jonah Bay, son of a famous Baez-ish folksinger; and the Wolf siblings, Ash and Goodman, attractive and mysterious. How these five circle each other, come together and break apart, makes for plenty of hilarious scenes and plenty of heartbreaking ones, too. A compelling coming of age story about five privileged kids, this is also a pitch-perfect tale about a particular generation and the era that spawned it. --Sara Nelson

Excerpt

Meg Wolitzer returns with The Interestings, a big and deliciously complicated novel that follows a group of summer-camp friends through the decades. Jules, Ash, Ethan and Jonah first dubbed themselves "the Interestings" as teenagers in the sweltering confines of Boys Teepee 3 at the artsy camp Spirit-in-the-Woods. All of them are bright, talented kids — artists, musicians, actors — but what happens to close friendship and early promise when you grow up? For the Interestings, that question will have very different answers. In this excerpt, Jules — now married to ultrasound technician Dennis — experiences an unpleasant burst of jealousy after reading the annual Christmas letter from Ethan and Ash, married to each other and flush with success. The Interestings will be published April 9. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Think about how talent is presented in the book. In your opinion, is it something you are born with or something you work hard to achieve? What is Meg Wolitzer saying about early talent? How is it important to future success? What roles do money and class play in fostering talent? Think about Jules and Ash. How does money influence the trajectories of their lives?

2. Jealousy is referred to in the book as being “I want what you have,” whereas envy is “I want what you have, but I also want to take it away so you can’t have it.” Who is jealous in this book? Who is envious? Can jealousy become envy? How is envy tied up in issues like talent and money?

3. Single parents, lost parents, and absent parents play a role in this novel. In what ways do the families the characters were born into shape their futures? Ash and Goodman are the only characters to come from an intact nuclear family that is able to provide for all their needs. Do you think this is necessarily a good thing for Goodman? What about Ash?

4. Despite the well–quoted sentiment that “you can’t go home again,” Jules tries to return to the place that felt like her spiritual, emotional, and artistic home. Are there circumstances in life in which you can go home again successfully? Is Jules foolish to give up her current life for something much more uncertain? What positive changes does the experience bring?

5. Despite how much she wants to, Jules cannot make herself fall in love with Ethan. Do you wish she were able to? Do you think Jules wishes she could? What about Ethan?

6. Ethan is one of the most noble characters in the book, and yet he has trouble reconciling his son’s condition and lies to Ash to avoid going to Mo’s evaluation. How does Ethan’s ambivalence about Mo change the way you feel about him? How do you feel about Jules’s complicity in his deception?

7. The shift from the seventies to the eighties to the current moment is an important one depicted in the book. What do you think Meg Wolitzer is trying to say about art and how art is sold? How does the commoditization of art change the role of the artist? Was the art of the seventies as pure as it seemed to the creators? The Wunderlichs remain true to an even earlier version of what art should be. What are the positives of that vision? What are its limits?

8. What role does geography play in the book? Think about the different spaces and homes represented: Manhattan, Underhill, Spirit–in–the–Woods. What do they say about the people who live in them? Think about Jules’s own feelings about her mother’s home in Underhill compared with the Wolfs’ home in Manhattan. What do those two spaces mean to her?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

There is both camp food and fine dining mentioned in the book
by lederhosen (see profile) 10/29/14
We served camp type food; hamburgers with assorted toppings. A relish tray and coleslaw Smores type desert Of course some nice wine to go with our camp food

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by Hindsnorth (see profile) 09/27/19

 
by aderoz (see profile) 01/09/19

 
by JooCho (see profile) 03/08/17

 
by sedonasue1 (see profile) 08/19/16

 
  "Mixed reviews"by mabook (see profile) 08/31/15

Our book club gave this book mixed reviews. Most thought the story was interesting and wanted to find out what happened, but there was almost general consensus regarding the main characters: we didn't... (read more)

 
  "The Interestings"by helenhiggs (see profile) 03/13/15

Overall we really enjoyed this book. Our discussion was very dynamic and went through an assortment of topics: jealousy vs. envy, the have's and have not, entitlement, relationships and keeping secrets.... (read more)

 
by kdhollrah (see profile) 01/07/15

 
  "The Interestings"by lederhosen (see profile) 10/29/14

The main character, Julie never seems to grow beyond her teenage self. Sometimes the flow of the book seemed so mundane that it was hard to stay engaged. Other characters in the book also seemed stuck... (read more)

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