Okay, DO NOT finish this book while sitting on a bus, lest you start crying a little, as I did (on the bus). I'd been looking forward to this book sin...moreOkay, DO NOT finish this book while sitting on a bus, lest you start crying a little, as I did (on the bus). I'd been looking forward to this book since I found out it would one day exist, so I had enormously high expectations that didn't really match up with me experience of reading it. It felt almost like a draft to me. The writing felt utilitarian rather than artful and deliberate in many places, and it seemed like Atwood was still parsing out her chosen form for this book. Telling of stories plus more omniscient 3rd person sections is a completely sensible and appropriate way to tell this final part of the trilogy, but the decision about which sections are told as storytelling by a character and which sections are told by a more detached narrator felt a little haphazard to me. I could sense the author's presence a little, whereas in the first two books I was completely spellbound for the entirety of the narrative. Still, I'm giving this 4 stars because I "really liked it." I love the story and the characters that have led me through this trilogy. I get from Atwood this sense of great compassion and concern for humanity and the natural world and, in this book, some hope. I care a great deal about writing and craft, but a kickass spec fic plot with strong, nuanced female characters--or maybe just when Margaret Atwood does these things--thrills me just about as much. (less)
These stories have made me want to give up my novel and start writing short stories again, because reading them was fun and they make writing seem fun...moreThese stories have made me want to give up my novel and start writing short stories again, because reading them was fun and they make writing seem fun. The work is uneven, as in Bender's previous collections, but when she's good she is singlingly and transcendently good. (less)
**spoiler alert** Cutting and pasting (with minor edits) my comments to my online book group, because I started off bored with this book and eventuall...more**spoiler alert** Cutting and pasting (with minor edits) my comments to my online book group, because I started off bored with this book and eventually began to feel very strongly that it's wonderful in many ways. . . .
I didn't feel that The Interestings was too compelling toward the beginning, and I was reading it slowly and sporadically. I didn't feel like it reached far enough outside its own world to be interesting (HA) to me, and that the attempts to be bigger--the underlying class narrative throughout being the most prominent example--were still so claustrophobically close to Jules's POV that I felt they weren't saying anything new.
Then, over one weekend, I read it in bigger swaths, like 80 pages at a time, and I was also further into the book by then, obviously, and I found I just couldn't put it down and that I was incredibly moved by it. I think this happened around the time of Dennis's depression first being known and explained. And after that, the book became so much more about the relationships between the characters--I mean, it was always about that, but the stakes became so much higher as they got older, and I felt like I knew them better and cared about them more.
I had concerns about Goodman's sudden reemergence just at that precise moment when Jules happened to be back at the camp. This is the kind of thing I do in my fiction, and then my writing group tells me it's suspect and I take it out. Wolitzer had several of these really convenient coincidences happen in the book.
That Goodman part made sense to me in a deeper way, though. Not the occurrence itself, but Jules seeing him after so long and seeing that he's become "marginal," and everyone thinking again, decades later, about how the Wolfs protected him against all rationality and moral upstandingness--that families have a different kind of internal logic. I wish there'd been a better way to come to those conclusions though, and also that the first 3rd or so of the book had been more condensed--their teenage years just weren't as rich as their adult years, and since the book didn't stick with Jules's POV the whole time, there doesn't seem to be a strong reason to spend so much time in their youth.
I also thought the Moonie stuff with Susannah Bay was glossed over, and that we were supposed to buy that she'd make such an abrupt and dramatic change just because she didn't feel like her music mattered to the general public anymore--her character wasn't clear enough on the page for that conclusion to necessarily make sense for her. And I found the ending rushed, though that pacing seemed to me to imitate life sometimes, and on a craft level, I think it's actually a better strategy than having a long illness narrative at the end of a novel.
I admired the way the chapters werer structured, and if I hadn't just returned it to the library, I'd have gone back and made notes on it, because I think it's a useful lesson for writers.(less)
I listened to this audiobook over 3 obsessive days and was floored by its numerous perversions. Sick and great. I really appreciate Flynn's commitment...moreI listened to this audiobook over 3 obsessive days and was floored by its numerous perversions. Sick and great. I really appreciate Flynn's commitment to deeply flawed female protagonists--there aren't nearly enough of them. The characters don't feel quite as developed or nuanced as in her later work, and the killer reveal wasn't particularly surprising, though one aspect of the crime that's revealed near the end caused me to emit a tiny, delighted/shocked scream, but this is a pretty awesome first novel. Simultaneously, I'm reading Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs, which features another deeply flawed female protag, and am trying to parse why Messud's character feels so much more developed to me. They're very different books, but I think Messud's character is stronger because she shows her experiencing joy and satisfaction, albeit briefly, amid all the darkness. This is a deeply human concession that keeps fucked up characters from seeming cartoonish; Flynn does it too in her later books. (less)