Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Interestings

Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2013)
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.

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.

468 pages, Hardcover

First published April 9, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Meg Wolitzer

56 books2,774 followers
Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
22,941 (19%)
4 stars
42,746 (36%)
3 stars
33,705 (29%)
2 stars
11,976 (10%)
1 star
4,321 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,522 reviews
March 2, 2023
This book was not Interesting (capital I or otherwise) in any way. Wolitzer wrote in such an ironic, lofty fashion that I was completely distanced from the characters. Very little actually happens in this novel, unless you count life, and that happens to all of us and does not a novel make.

Six teens meet at summer camp, and four of them remain friends for decades. The friends deal with successes and failure, various love affairs, and one scandal, which is the central plot point of the novel (yet is never discussed or resolved in any meaningful way).

Even though the novel spans the 70s through the present day, there is no tangible development or sense of time or place. The 70s might as well be the 90s. The "World Wide Web" is mentioned once, and that's about it. The reader never gets grounded in a setting. Even the summer camp where the friends meet, and which is supposedly instrumental to their lives, is barely sketched.

Overall, the storyline doesn't amount to much. The book plods along, and we are told over and over that so-and-so is funny or charming, but we are never shown. Jules, the central character, is supposed to be the funny one in the group, for example, but nothing she says is actually funny. I never felt like I knew her, only a caricature of her, and the caricature was not likable. Jules is wishy-washy, superficial, petty, and jealous.

The more minor interesting characters, like Jonah or Cathy, aren't developed at all. Jonah is the token gay friend who has trouble forming attachments. Cathy is the token needy girl. Goodman (get it?), who is not good at all, is the burly, good-looking, dumb dude who drinks a lot (his character, on whom the main plot point hinges, is so woefully undeveloped as to be laughable).

Wolitzer is obsessed with external appearances. Ethan, who grows up to be rich and famous, is ugly, and we're told that his children are lucky not to look like him; we are told how ugly he is over and over, and Wolitzer focuses in excrutiating detail on his stockiness, his sour smell, his bad hair, his sweat, his eczema. Jules is also plain with frizzy hair. Jonah is beautiful (as is his partner, Robert Takahashi, who is infuriatingly referred to by his full name nearly every time he's mentioned as if the fact that he's Japanese-American somehow makes Wolitzer cool and multi-cultural). Ash is beautiful and fragile and basically perfect. Cathy has big hips and big breasts, and so on, ad nauseum.

All the characters are strangely awkward and have an odd, abstract self-awareness that just didn't resonate as true. They all speak in a stilted tone, much like the tone of the novel, and are not fully fleshed out.

Much of the writing is clunky and heavy-handed, and the novel jumps back and forth in time between the mid-70s and the present; some of these leaps are confusing, and there is a lot of unnecessary detail.

I also don't think I've ever read less-sexy sex than what Wolitzer dished out in The Interestings. There is talk of anuses and penises and breasts, all of it at once clinical yet bizarrely juvenile. At one point, Jules watches a new love interest walk up to his loft and notices his heavy balls and the slit of his puckered anus. I'm being kind in paraphrasing here. The original is much worse, and the novel is full of such passages. Who thinks this during the excitement of a sexual moment? And why do we need to be privy to such random thoughts? Why spend two paragraphs talking about someone's anus but mention 9/11 as an afterthought in one sentence?
Profile Image for Stephen King.
Author 2,615 books818k followers
January 31, 2014
A group of adolescents—little more than children, really—meet at a camp where kids explore their creativity. Ethan, Jules, Cathy, Goodman, Ash: All believe they are meant for great things. This assumption of huge talent where there may be little or none lies at the heart of Wolitzer’s novel, which sweeps across a span of decades. There’s sentiment here, full and wholehearted, but little sentimentality. Like The Corrections, The Interestings addresses one of fiction’s great themes: how we make peace with our own shortcomings and make the best of ordinary lives.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,910 followers
August 13, 2016
The Interestings are about as interesting as my butt dimple. The most exciting moment came when I rushed to my dictionary to check on the correct plural form for clitoris. I thought it might be 'clitori'. Or even 'clitorae'. But clitorises is the accepted form. I much prefer the correct Greek plural provided by my dictionary -- 'clitorides'. It's a word that deserves capitalization: Clitorides, Greek goddess of female pleasure.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,762 followers
December 4, 2013
I’m not certain what 44 looks like, other than what I’m presented with in the mirror each morning. The Social Security Life Expectancy calculator informs me that I’ve lived half my anticipated span. The tired maxim encourages me not to think of the years in my life, but the life in my years.

Now that I’m marooned in middle age for a spell, I’ve been thinking an awful lot about the life in the years ahead of and behind me. Have I achieved something of value in my work, my relationships? Is what I do enough to sustain me intellectually and emotionally for the next forty-four years? Do I measure up to my peers? Am I happy? Am I interesting? This quest for fulfillment and self-actualization is the premise of Meg Wolitzer’s sprawling, cracking good novel The Interestings.

In the summer of ’74, Julie Jacobson, a middle class average achiever from a non-descript upstate New York town, earns a spot at an exclusive arts camp in New England. She is selected to enter the inner circle of the five coolest kids in camp, each a precocious, urbane specimen bred in the hipness of New York City. Julie becomes Jules and we follow her and those five other teenagers for the next thirty years.

Jules is obsessed with the self-dubbed The Interestings -the talented and/or privileged people to whom she devotes so much emotional energy. The cult of personalities made me squeamish at times—I wanted her to walk away from the past and create a life of her own. But her devotion to their supposed ideal reveals one of the truths of human nature—we hang onto the golden coming-of-age memories, hoping those few perfect moments of childhood will carry us through the disappointment of growing up.

It took me a long time to track on the Jules Vibe. I never quite believed in her intimate friendship with Ash Wolf, the faerie child around whose axis the group of friends spins. Nor did I fully embrace Ethan’s constancy of passion for her. She just wasn’t, ironically, that interesting. Even her physical presence remained shadowy for me. The others I could picture perfectly—lumbering, awkward Ethan; delicate, perfectly formed Ash; bombshell Cathy; finely etched, beautiful Jonah with his sweep of long, dark hair; golden God turned bloated addict Goodman. But Jules, other than her unruly hair, remained indistinct.

Yet, as she matured, growing into her role as friend, counselor, wife and mother, Jules begins to take shape. She became the character I most wanted to get stuck in the middle of a book with. Which is the genius of Wolitzer’s narrative—the novel’s most enigmatic character becomes its core strength.

Not that you’ll get stuck in this book. Despite its length and scope, The Interestings impels the reader with sparkling dialogue and description. I did tread water with some lengthy expository and flashback episodes, but it easily becomes one of those books you just can’t set down.

If you say you don’t compare your external successes and failures (e.g. material possessions, presumed income, job, weight, health, marital status, kids’ college admissions, job prospects) with your circle of peers, I say “more power to you.” Forgive me if I don’t believe you. Meg Wolitzer probably wouldn’t believe you, either. It’s what we do, we flawed, insecure, fickle humans. We’re hard-wired to want what we ain’t got.

But we can learn to accept what we’ve been given. Do The Interestings? Read and find out.

I’m five years too young to fall within the brackets of the Baby Boomer generation (cut-off birth year is 1964), and ten years younger than the main characters of The Interestings, but I can relate to many of the novel’s cultural reference points and Jules Jacobson’s feeling that she just missed out on the badge of cultural honor bestowed those who came of age in the late ’60s.

I’ve walked away from traditional success a few times, always choosing the interesting over expected. Perhaps because I fear the fall from lofty heights will be harder to recover from than the soft bounce of relative obscurity. Perhaps I’m just lazy. Here’s to the second half of the journey.
Profile Image for Chaitra.
3,383 reviews
December 4, 2013
There's a point in which one of the characters - a highly successful animator Ethan - wonders which Disney character would the protagonist Jules be and concludes that Disney doesn't make princesses like her. Wonderingly. I would have loved to point him to the nearest green-with-envy evil stepmother/stepsister. They're dime a dozen in Disney.

And that's exactly what Jules is, jealous, petty and self absorbed even after 50+ years of her life. The novel barely acknowledges this. Oh, there are a couple of fights with her husband, but everything is patched up and hunky dory because of fortuitous circumstances. She never has to evaluate herself, never has to face her faults, not even the consequences of anything. The novel is a 460 page, bloated paean to Jules' unhealthy jealousy of her successful friends, and the unconditional acceptance and love that her friends have for her despite this. The animator still carries a torch for her, as she does for his lifestyle if not for him (oh no, she's so revolted by his ugliness that she has to mention it twice in every page). But neither her husband Dennis, nor his wife Ash ever call them out for it. It's amazing. I was disgusted and uncomfortable the entire way.

There are other characters - "The Interestings" - a smug group of six friends who meet at an art camp and form an alliance. One is dropped early during her moment of crisis, without much thought. Another is a would be interesting gay man coming out of the closet during the AIDS hey-days, gets involved with a cult and faced abuse during childhood. But "Interestings" was probably an ironic title, because this guy is marginalized. He's there, but he's a token absorbing the goodness of his lovely friends Ethan, Ash and Jules. He also has a partner called Robert Takahashi, who Wolitzer insists on calling Robert Takahashi every time his name is brought up. Everyone else is referred to by their first name, but what if we forget the Japanese-Americanness of Robert Takahashi? Moving on, Goodman, Ash's disappointing brother is the bad man of the lot. He does something hideous, takes the easy way out of running away and depending on his parents and sister who believe in him unconditionally for support. We don't see him much either, possibly because he's interesting and he doesn't have the hots for Jules.

Here I was who thought only YA books dealt with the level of pettiness and superficiality dealt with here. I mean, is it necessary to refer to Ethan as ugly every time his name comes up? Smug bitch Jules rejects him because he's ugly, and patronizingly thinks that one day he would find someone the equal of him in physicality. But the beautiful and basically perfect Ash falls for him much to everyone's surprise, but what do you know? Jules is Ethan's soulmate, for no discernible reason other than the novel telling us so. She's a terrible friend, this person. A terrible mother too, because she thinks her happy daughter is not the equal of Ash's delicate and sensitive daughter. But Jules' daughter turns out to be the best kind of daughter, never any trouble. No drama, no theatricality. How is that even possible? Had this been real life that girl would be in therapy. Towards the end of the book Ethan asks her if she felt anything on seeing Goodman again. She replies, I felt shame (because she earlier had the hots for him). But here is the real reason why she's not attracted to him anymore - not because he's a , that didn't bother her when she met him years earlier in Iceland, but because his face is ruined by the amount of drugs he did in the years after. How's that for deep?

Trite language, horrible characters, an over-emphasis on the silly and the unimportant, and a boring plotline. If the whole thing was an ironic indictment of Jules and by extension the Interestings, it may have worked, but it was too long and way too unfunny for that. Oh, and if you're going to have every single person in your book call your heroine funny, have her speak at least one funny line. Waste of a day in my life. I could have spent it more fruitfully envying my successful friends.
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
829 reviews760 followers
February 21, 2013
Meg Wolitzer’s captivating new novel, set in the bustle and exuberance of New York, is a panoramic and epic drama, but a sleeper kind of epic. It gripped me by degrees, opening rather conventionally and then gradually seducing me with a fertile character development and realistic, original story. She penetrates the messiness of human lives with a spotless narrative that feels both familiar and singular. If you are drawn to human drama, you’ll soon be thoroughly hooked. This is surely the crown of Wolitzer’s writing career.

Six teenagers meet at a co-ed arts camp in the Berkshires in 1974 and remain in touch through the years (up to the present). A few become close intimates, and all of them maintain a lifelong bond. They each have a creative talent that they endeavor to nurture--dance, animation, architecture, theater, music. Art/creativity is the altar at which most of them strive and sacrifice to achieve artistic grace and ingenuity. But some are more successful than others in translating a talent into a career, and in identifying the difference between desire and aptitude.

Although THE INETRESTINGS is an ensemble piece, aspiring stage actress, Jules Jacobson, stands out as the moral touchstone of the novel. We wholly inhabit her head and heart. Although her life is the most recognizably routine, she resonates acutely in the narrative. Occasionally, she covets her friends’ successes, and she struggles at times to be charitable in her thoughts, but in spite of herself, Jules possesses an incorruptible archness and mettle. Artistically, she aims for a Lucille Ball comic timing, but her delivery promptly falls flat. Awkward and spontaneous, she has a tough and vulnerable elasticity that fuels the story. She’s injured, imperfect, but even at her most astray, there’s something of the shepherdess in her.

Waifish Ash Wolf, the Yale-bound dramatic actress, is sister to Goodman, the robustly masculine but lugubrious, lazy, wannabe architect. They come from privileged roots, and their NY apartment and cultured parents become a meeting place for the six friends during off-camp season.

Ethan Figman, homely and flat-nosed, is nevertheless the ambassador of the group, and the most obviously talented. His Fig Land animation/characters demonstrate the work of a genius.

Jonah Bay is the son of a famous, Judi Collins-like folksinger. He has delicately attractive features, and is quiet and thoughtful, but troubled.

Cathy Kiplinger--full-breasted and extroverted, and fearlessly sexy, came to the camp on scholarship, and dreams of a career in dance.

A seventh main character emerges, an outsider who becomes an insider, and even eclipses some of the primary group of six, but I don’t want to give anything away by even naming him or her. However, it is from this person that a new perspective of the group and its bond are viewed. The book’s power is both its sweeping scope and the magnification of everyday life. It is best to read this novel without any preparation or peek inside.

Distinctly drawn characters propel the action. You will forget that there is an author between you and the story, because rather than being “notified,” the reader sharply observes the coalescing of the characters' individual natures and the connection between the friends. There’s no skipping to contrived plot points, and the story never intrudes with an authorial voice. Both stout and potent, the narrative doesn’t rely on gimmicks or typical arcs and milestones. You engage through an accretion of details and everyday events, rather than through trumped-up epiphanies. However, one seismic event causes tremors and fissures that divide some characters and bring others together. We engage more and more as time passes and the characters grow.

Ambition, desire, success, jealousy, and envy shape the mortal coils of friendship, love, and loyalty, and figure importantly in the story, as do coming to terms with strengths and limitations. Moreover, mental health issues are addressed with keen awareness and insight. Much of the novel is a fluent progression of days and moments, strung brilliantly together. As observers, we get a ground view, and occasionally a bird’s eye view of events, but we inhabit the narrative as if we are inside the story. The novel goes back and forth in time with a fluid and seamless momentum that kept me turning the pages well into the wee hours of the night. Consummately satisfying, interesting, and more.

Profile Image for Melanie.
Author 6 books1,202 followers
April 7, 2021
So. Fucking. Great.

I'm going to gush. It's going to come out all wrong. But that's ok.

There was so much soul and perceptiveness in this genius novel that I don't really know what to say other than "go read it now".

What happens to talent over time? What happens to teenage friendships over time? What happens to passion and ideals and dreams over time?

This novel will fill your heart to the brim and break it like a twig all at the same time.

I will echo another Goodreads friend and say that it is simply perfect. I will echo another Goodreads friend who said that it felt like a mix between "Freedom" and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" but even better. It is.

I think the New York Times was wrong: this is probably the best book that I will read all year.
Profile Image for Elaine.
784 reviews365 followers
May 8, 2016
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. I was sucked in by the opening chapters, a group of friends, a summer camp much like my own, only half a generation older than me. I even recognized the types: the serious beautiful girl, the nerdy but well loved creative boy, the awkward girl making her way through on humor (me), the gorgeous arrogant boy... I could give each of these characters names from my own camp experience. And I could picture the Wolfs' New York: the big Central Park apartment, Ethan at Stuyvesant, the scary 80s streets, the first days in the East Village, walk up apartments... It's so seductive to see your own life chronicled, if a few years off, and made into the stuff of literature and saga.

And I was also interested in Wolitzer's themes of adult life. In the difference that class and money can make between liefelong friends, something that probably bears more thinking about than I care to do. About what it means that some of us in middle age have "made it" and others of us have not. About what happens to childhood dreams that remain inevitably unfulfilled.

So I was a good audience for this book. A summer camp goer, a New Yorker who vividly remembers the 80s, and someone whose closest friends are still, not summer camp, but the little group that formed a few years later in college. I did enjoy that element of the book - the luxury of self-recognition (to a point), the check boxes of common memory of our city (squeegee men, the Central Park Jogger, Giuliani, the first tech boom, 9/11, etc. etc.).

But that is where she left me. Wolitzer is not a good writer on a sentence or paragraph level. Her prose plods. But more importantly, I utimately couldn't buy her central premise: that we carry our unfulfilled teenagers closely inside us and that those nasty jealous envious insecure creatures dictate the flows and rhythms of our adult life. It's not reflected in my own life, thank God, or those of my friends, except in a few very sad cases. Her dramatic conceit requires us to accept that the traumas and passions of 15 play a large role in who we are at 50. That may be true on an unconscious level, but Wolitzer plays that out on a very literal level. You envied this person then, you envy them more now. I hazard a guess that life could not be lived sanely that way. Most of life happens to you after adolescence - that's just mathematical. And for most people outside of novels, inevitable...and healing.

So I don't believe in her central characters. I just didn't believe that Jules could live in that bubble of longing for the heady days of what she desired during that summer of 15 for so long, without growing or changing. I think Wolitzer meant to convey the banal tragedy of middle age, a woman like the rest of us, who saw stars and glamour at 15 but then had to settle down to ordinariness. But instead of poignant, Jules just seemed irritating and shallow, and Wolitzer seems to enjoy giving her her come uppance as well, not an appealing situation for the main character of a long novel. On the other hand, Jonah - perhaps the most interesting character - is sadly relegated to the sidelines, only popping up here and there as a walk on in the ultimately boring drama of Jules and Ethan.

Finally, I don't want to spoil, but there's an anachronistic date rape right at the center of this book. I would like to believe that the New York police in 1976 would have responded so seriously to an ambiguous maybe-rape-maybe-consensual-sex of a drunk and high teenager by her privileged white ex-boyfriend. But I know that wasn't true then, and it's probably barely true now. (Wolitzer name checks the Jennifer Levin murder - which happened a full ten years later - where the victim was blamed for getting herself dead (slut, she liked it rough, etc.) without accounting for what that means for her central drama). It's a nice plot engine. But unfortunately one that doesn't ring true - not in 1976 anyway.
Profile Image for Nicole.
164 reviews14 followers
June 11, 2013
Ugh. I agree so much with Dani's review.

I heard an interview with Wolitzer on NPR and was intrigued and really looked forward to reading this book. I wanted to like it which is why I got nearly halfway through... waiting... hoping something was going to happen... before I skipped about a hundred pages to about 5 or 6 chapters from the end. Wolitzer is so repetitive that it wasn't at all hard to figure out what I'd missed.

This book really has no plot. I actually am a fan of character-driven novels and I'm even okay with books in which not a lot happens, but then the characters are likeable or quirky or actually interesting and none of these were.

At the end of the book I realized that this was somewhat of a point that Wolitzer was trying to make, that . And while this is an interesting thought - one upon which a novel could be built - it certainly doesn't merit 468 pages. It felt like such a slog to ulitimately have so little said.
Profile Image for Olive Fellows (abookolive).
582 reviews4,713 followers
August 7, 2022
This book destroyed me. Will try to write down my feelings about it when it no longer feels like there's a open wound where my heart should be.

2022 reread: It's hard to believe it's been over seven years since I read this book for the first time. During my first readthrough, I remember feeling so connected to Jules and her friends when they're in their somewhat aimless twenties, trying to figure out how to hold on to their friendships as everything is changing for all of them at varying rates. But I'm seven years older now, so I suppose it's natural that during this reread, I paid closer attention to the characters as they started to become more cemented in their lives and careers. The book was just as good the second time, but it was also a different reading experience given how much time has passed and how much I've changed since my mid-twenties when I first read it. But I love that about rereads.

Click here to hear more of my thoughts on my reread of this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive!

Profile Image for da AL.
366 reviews365 followers
April 20, 2018
For the first two-thirds of this book, I often thought, "Barf! What's so interesting about these self-proclaimed 'interestings'?" This wasn't helped by the audiobook reader doing a good job whenever there was dialog, but rushing dully through the prose.

Yeah! The fundamentally good writing kept me going -- and I was rewarded! Not one to give away spoilers, I'll only say that when the story got to a conversation covering my exact question, the author answered it marvelously! The rest of the book made the whole of it worthwhile.
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,562 followers
April 10, 2019
Here's what occurs to the separate/disparate destinies (that don't always simply intertwine) of the Interestings. Some of them become insanely rich, successful, even famous, while others do not. They predictably fall behind: herein, pathos. But every member of that group of artsy folk, their decisions, shape what ultimately becomes the final picture-- engineering their fates in compelling and irrefutable ways.

Wolitzer's beloved novel takes the torch from other contemporary dramas about several coming-of-ages going on at once, like "The Marriage Plot" (make no mistake, the Jeffrey Eugenides stamp in form of a positive review on the cover is one major selling device), The Art of Fielding, and Freedom. Here, great events occur to people who have high expectations of themselves and their lives. Some reach something BEYOND fame, fortune, or The American Dream; they reach PERMANENCE. And for the reader, only to finish the book to reach that love-it-or-hate-it final sentence, so innately perfect, well, it's a real treat.

This is the type of novel that you & I both go very deeply gaga over. The type that hits the spot; that feels like a trip (& a return back from it) that sort of feeds the inner reader's salivating soul.
577 reviews3 followers
June 23, 2013
Meh. Another book with an ironic title.

The first part of the book plods along as you wait for something to happen. Then the second part comes and you still wait for something to happen. Then the third part comes along and you understand that the author was just writing a long, unfunny Seinfeld episode, a story about nothing.

Actually, I think she just wanted to let us know that East Coast kids who went to long summer camps in the mountains got married, had kids, had little life dramas, and all the insecurities and career choices that everyone else has. So, welcome to your life, as portrayed by other people.

I was very close to abandoning this book, because it just didn't go anywhere, offers no hope, and sheds no insight into life. But I kept thinking it would get better. By the middle of the second section, I figured out that wasn't going to happen, but I was at least hopeful that something interesting would happen.

Nope. You know all the characters from the beginning of the story will make an appearance at the end of the story, and that all of them will have unresolved issues in their lives, and whatever.

Personally, I'd say skip this book and just get a bunch of Demotivator posters from despair.com. They give you the same experience, only they'll make you laugh, too.

Now, if you are in your twenties and want to see what your life will be like in 30 years, go ahead and read this book. But maybe you shouldn't, and just be surprised to see that you will be like everyone else. Meh.

Profile Image for Carmen.
2,056 reviews1,855 followers
February 11, 2016
A first kiss, Jules had thought, was supposed to magnetize you to the other person; the magnet and the metal were meant to fuse and melt on contact into a sizzling brew of silver and red. But this kiss had done nothing like that. Jules would have liked to tell Ash all about it now. She recognized that that is how friendships begin: one person reveals a moment of strangeness, and the other person decides just to listen and not exploit it.

This book deserves to be read. It is a literary masterpiece elegantly and perfectly written, in the vein of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.

Please don't think I've become some intellectually pretentious literary snob, I read cyborg smut for fun, for heaven's sake.

Six teenagers meet at a summer camp for creative arts in 1974. They sarcastically dub themselves the Interestings - each with their own personality and talent. This book follows them throughout the years until they themselves are the parents of adult children. Each of their lives take a path no one could have foreseen.

This sounds hella boring, but Wolitzer's writing is beautiful. Like Donna Tartt, Wolitzer has chosen to bless the most mundane topics with her immense gifts. Not like I'm saying Wolitzer is Tartt. Obviously no one can be Donna Tartt except Donna Tartt. Let's not fool ourselves.

That being said, this book is a masterpiece. And the craziest thing is, the main character (Jules) is kind of an asshole. She often made me angry. She's an envious, entitled, grasping little snot. However, she's a completely three-dimensional and believable character, a brilliant mix-up of good and bad. Not only is she a living, breathing character, but Wolitzer puts this loving and thorough attention on all the MCs (even if she skimps on her side characters, that's understandable).

Wolitzer does a great job (like Tartt did) of combining mundane, everyday life with kind of kooky and unbelievable circumstances. You will become so immersed in this world. You will feel rage when one of the Interestings is hurt. You will feel anxious when they are in trouble. You will root for them, cry for them, want to smack them upside the head when they are being shallow and self-absorbed.... This is a full-on experience that Wolitzer is giving readers, here.

I feel like I could go into details about the characters and their lives, critiquing their decisions and analyzing their personalities, but I won't. For one thing, that way lies spoilers. For another thing, each of their lives has so many twists and turns - I want you to be surprised and shocked and dismayed and delighted, the way I was while reading this book.

The only thing that bothered me about the book - truly bothered me - was it's treatment of autism and autistic people. When someone in the book is diagnosed as being "on the spectrum," it's as if everyone thinks his life is over. He can't possibly be smart. He can't possibly ever hold down a job. He can't possibly have gifts of his own. Characters LITERALLY say, over and over again, that his potential is extinguished.

Unlike other times in this book when I feel like Wolitzer is kind of acknowledging her asshole characters (winking at the camera, let's say) this is played completely straight and it is disgusting and very offensive to me. The idea that autistic people are "icky" "damaged" "unlovable" "unemployable" and a burden on their families and society makes me want to slam my fist into a wall. WTF, Wolitzer?!?!?!

The titanium friendships in this book will have you calling your best friend after you close the book and telling him/her how much you love him/her. I like that the book made me feel this way.

Tl;dr - What else can I say? This is an amazing book, if not for the content then for Wolitzer's brilliant writing. I feel proud and awed that some kickass literary lions today are females.

I read Wolitzer's The Ten-Year Nap years and years ago (pre-GR) and don't remember it being this awesome. Perhaps she's improving with every book she writes? That's not unheard of.

You wouldn't believe how many people saw fit to tell me that this was an amazing book when they saw me reading it in public. And you know what? I resisted reading this for a long time just because of the hype. I don't trust hype. (I did this same thing with The Goldfinch.) So imagine my shock and surprise and awe when this book actually turned out to be a work of art. Perhaps I shouldn't dismiss every book that gathers literary praise out of hand? *shrug*

I recommend this to EVERYONE. Male or female, no matter what age... it doesn't matter. This is a great book - both men and women came up to me to praise it when they saw me reading it everywhere.

One of the few books that lives up to its reputation, Wolitzer deserves some kind of award for this. She deserves the high praise. Could The Orphan Master's Son really be as good as this? I aim to find out.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,531 followers
May 2, 2015
The Interestings is a big, beautiful and utterly absorbing novel about art, friendship, love, life and mortality. It also deals with something rarely seen in fiction: envy.

In the mid-1970s at an arts-oriented summer camp in upstate New York, six precocious kids bond over music, V&Ts (vodka and Tang) and a bit of pot. They each have gifts – some more defined than others – and insecurities. They call themselves “the interestings,” because, well, they are, and they’re convinced they’re going to do great things in the fields of music, animation, acting, dance, etc.

Needless to say, it doesn’t work out for all of them. Over the years then decades, real life intervenes, rent and student loans need to be paid. Careers are pursued and then, sometimes, abandoned. As Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actor, muses after countless unsuccessful auditions and one stinging putdown by a bitchy acting teacher:

“I’m willing to keep giving this whole thing a try. But how long do I put myself out there? … What about auditioning? Do I keep on doing it? When do I stop? When I’m twenty-five? Thirty? Thirty-five? Forty? Or right this minute? Nobody tells you how long you should keep doing something before you give up forever. You don’t want to wait until you’re so old that no one will hire you in any other field either. I already feel kind of worn out by it all and I’ve basically just started.”

Ouch. As a critic who’s watched promising actors, directors and comics either climb the ladder to success and fame or toil away unrecognized until they flame out, change careers or disappear, I can relate. Talent is only one factor in success; perseverance counts, and so does luck. It also helps to have rich parents.

All of those things come up in The Interestings, but the novel also touches on how success and trauma change people, how love can be deeper between friends than lovers, how families become like fortresses, and how our infatuations can stay with us until we’re eventually confronted with brutal reality.

Wolitzer’s ingenious narrative can catapult us decades forward, and then go back, so the mystery in the book isn’t “What happens to these people?” but “How did these things happen?” and “Why?” There is an event that severs the group early on, leaving many questions unanswered, but Wolitzer comes back to it eventually, very gracefully.

Line-by-line, she is such a good writer. Here’s one random sentence from late in the book:

They slapped backs again in that awkward way of middle-aged men who ache to hug but have already hugged too recently.

As with any book set in a certain time and place, Wolitzer tries to put in significant historic details to have her characters respond to: Watergate, religious leader Sun Myung Moon’s mass wedding at Madison Square Garden, the first appearances of AIDS, changing medications for depression, 9/11 and its aftermath. At times these feel dutifully checked off rather than organic parts of the book.

But The Interestings is full of warmth, life and compassion. They say we don’t feel things as intensely as we do when we’re adolescents. Wolitzer makes us relive those feelings in the early parts of the book and then artfully adds the layers of complexity and understanding that we learn when we get older.
913 reviews401 followers
July 12, 2013
She sat down to write her review of The Interestings. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard. Oh, the angst.

Was it her? Should she list her fifty insecurities in homage to the bizarre self-awareness of these characters, who spent so much time contemplating their navels it was a wonder none of them was ever hit by a car? Oh, dear. Was that a spoiler? No, it wasn't a spoiler. Now, where were we? Have we made much progress with this review?

Okay. Let's move the plot along here. We'll start with the main character, Julie, who became Jules in camp that summer. The summer she met a bunch of privileged teens and was immediately adopted into her group. This was because Jules was funny and charming, as the author keeps telling us. It's always a risk to have a character whom you want to be funny and charming, she thought. You have to be sufficiently funny and charming yourself to create a character whose humor and appeal are believable. It's like writing a novel about a character who's a genius and needing that character to impress the reader with lots of smart insights. But what if you weren't so smart yourself?

Similarly, she thought, the author kept telling the reader how great that camp experience was. Was it in fact? She kept reading it, but did she believe it?

So through the book the characters took a number of twists and turns. Viewpoints shifted, as we moved from one angsty head into another. Most of the novel took place from the neck up, although when the characters enjoyed romantic encounters the reader was treated to highly graphic, clinical descriptions of body parts and what they were doing. She had never been a fan of descriptive sex scenes in books, but these almost read like a parody. She would have laughed, but it got too gross.

Well, what do you know! She had written a review of this book! She decided to leave the computer before the self-absorption killed her. Maybe that was the point. Everyone is interesting to themselves, she supposed.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 121 books157k followers
February 21, 2013
Glorious, messy, intimately epic. More soon.
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews654 followers
October 1, 2018
Major book hangover after finishing this one.

The Interestings truly makes me swoon. I feel like the unseen member of this group of characters, the author has hypnotized me with her way with words. You simply must read this novel for yourself.

This latest novel by Meg Wolitzer could easily become my reading yardstick. It is thought-provoking, serious, insouciant and amusing; it strolls across your consciousness with a lazy charm. Each character is lovingly crafted; Meg Wolitzer knows what she is doing and she does it well. There is perfect, persuasive prose, delicious, decadent detail and seamless, satisfying storytelling, relentlessly riveting the reader from go to whoa.

Short stories want to grow up to be this novel, other fictions glare in uneasy jealousy and epics long to be edited down to this 468 page word perfect novel.

Just now, I am sorely tempted to start the book all over again. Most Highly Recommended and a stunning 5★ from me.
Profile Image for Natalie Tyler.
Author 1 book56 followers
July 25, 2013
I was tempted to read this book by the glowing reviews and it proved to me that the reviewers are not ALWAYS wrong.

THE INTERESTINGS is a book of great depth and insight. It follows six characters who meet at summer camp in 1974 up through the present--along with, to varying degrees, new friends, new relationships, and family members. Although there are many historically resonant moments, more than anything this is a book about character growth and development. I am not the only one who has compared this book to the works of Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides. Such comparisons are helpful only on the superficial level that I remember vividly the details of the books, characterization, and themes of these novelists and I will remember "The Interestings" as well. In short, people are realizing that Wolitzer is a first-rate novelist.

The genius of the novel is that is shows such different characters, who are well-developed, as they grow and change against the backdrop of history but more importantly against the backdrop of the Great Themes of Human Life. Friendships. Family. Talent. Loyalty. Lies. Truths. Illness. Depression. Passion. Parenthood. The work-place. Money. Jealousy. Death.

One of the reasons that the books is so successful is the character of Jules (a woman). She is the primary character and we get her point of view much more frequently than that of any other. We come to know,
trust, and (mostly) respect her point of view as she grows and matures, and reflects upon the people in the world about her.

Wolitzer's writing is deliciously complex. She has the ability to bring a fantastic sense of humor to bear alongside the more tragic and weighty events of the novel. She's got a deft ability to create newand exciting metaphors and to make vivid comparisons.

I can guarantee that this book will be, in December, prominent on the Best Books of 2013 lists. I am also planning to read some of her earlier works . The last review I submitted here was about a popular, well-reviewed book (The Uninvited Guests) that I know I won't remember. I will remember this one. Like Franzen and Eugenides, mentioned earlier, I would put this book in the tradition of the solid and memorable literary realism that was perfected by the great 19th century novelists Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Trollope, and Thackeray.

Some reviews say that they cannot identify with the characters or that the characters are not likeable. I have never read in that way. I don't read looking for characters to admire or to like but instead I like for characters who can provide insight to the vast panoply of the human condition. Shakespeare's Hamlet instructs the players to hold "the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, her scorn, her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure."

Wolitzer has done a spectacular job of holding up the mirror to human nature of the past 40 years.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,652 followers
January 14, 2018
"From this day forward, because we are clearly the most interesting people who ever fucking lived ... because we are just so fucking compelling, our brains swollen with intellectual thoughts, let us be known as the Interestings. And let everyone who meets us fall down dead in our path from just how fucking interesting we are."

This is an epic novel that covers several decades in the lives of a group of friends. The friends met in 1974 at a summer camp for the arts, and the book mostly focuses on the perspective of Jules Jacobson, a wannabe actress who uses comedy to ingratiate herself with the Interestings, which also include serious actress Ash, illustrator Ethan, musician Jonah, dancer Cathy, and Goodman, who lacks talent but makes up for it in arrogance. The book jumps around in time a bit, sometimes flashing back to someone's childhood, sometimes jumping ahead a decade.

When I started this book, I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. The characters and dialogue could be a bit precious, but I so related to Jules that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to her. Her path from artsy teenager to middle-aged mother felt genuine, and while I didn't agree with every choice she made, I was rooting for her the entire time. Recommended.

Favorite Quote
"And didn't it always go like that — body parts not quite lining up the way you wanted them to, all of it a little bit off, as if the world itself were an animated sequence of longing and envy and self-hatred and grandiosity and failure and success, a strange and endless carton loop that you couldn't stop watching, because, despite all you knew by now, it was still so interesting."
Profile Image for Maureen.
507 reviews4,201 followers
July 15, 2016
I really honestly enjoyed this book. It is super engrossing and almost felt like watching a movie and seeing how things all played out. I loved the flawed characters and how their decisions felt real, I loved how the story jumped around in different time periods, and I really liked the story overall. These characters felt like people you might know or already know, even though their lives are so different from yours.
Overall pretty great if you enjoy literary fiction! Solid read.

PS I listened to the audiobook and loved that telling of the story. The author did different voices for the characters that actually seemed real and not cheesy and weird. 10/10 would recommend.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,133 reviews8,139 followers
April 8, 2015
Absolutely wonderful. Maybe not the most technically brilliant book I've ever read, it had that certain quality that comes along very rarely in reading that completely sweeps you off your feet. I fell in love with the characters because that is what Wolitzer does best in her writing. If you want real, raw characters who you can rejoice or cry with, The Interestings is the book for you. I won't soon forget how each and every one of these characters, their lives, and their talents intertwined with one another and with me as I read about it all. So happy to have found this book.
Profile Image for Jane Olsen.
26 reviews
August 11, 2013
The premise of the book is one that is quite familiar: a group of young people develop a strong bond while attending camp together, and the story follows the evolution of their lives and relationships into adulthood. It's fascinating to me that so many people think this is an outstanding piece of writing. The author fails one of my most elementary assessments for my fifth-grade writers: Can you show me what you mean, instead of telling me? Not only are these characters not particularly interesting examples of adolescent self-obsession and shallowness (yes I know the title is ironic, but the failure of interesting-ness is way beyond ironic), but also the author tells us all the time that they have certain qualities, yet we don't really believe it, because we never see any of those qualities in action. For example, the character who is really at the center of the story is presented to us as exceptionally empathic, someone others love to be around and who reflects something warm and powerful back to them, but we never see it happen. Indeed, when we are privy to her ruminations, we mostly see her as filled with petty jealousies and shallow envy. She seems to attach herself to her "best friend" simply because she loves to be around rich people (coming from very limited means herself), but I don't think that was what the author intended. The whole story fails because I cannot imagine why any of these people even want to be with each other. Their group formed initially because they thought they were cooler than everyone else at their exceptionally cool camp, and we never see any better reason for them to be friends. I really don't get it. I do have a problem letting go of a book before I find out "what happens," and it's hard to skip ahead on a kindle, so I did read it to the end, but I would not recommend it.
Profile Image for Brigid.
86 reviews
February 26, 2015
A local bookstore featured this book on their suggested shelf and had written something to the extent of, "What Franzen tries to do in Freedom, Wolitzer does in The Interestings." Based on this review, I snatched up the book immediately and looked forward to reading it at the beach over a long 4th of July weekend.

And while this book was a mildly entertaining beach read, it stops there. There's not much at stake for any of Wolitzer's characters--all of whom are white, relatively privileged, and fail to change or develop over the course of nearly 500 pages. After 300 pages in, I was faced with the saddening truth that I had invested a lot in characters who were neither likeable, nor very interesting. The protagonist, Jules, especially comes off as whiney and self-pitying because she has a pretty ordinary--and by most standards, pretty blessed--life. Wolitzer is so insistant that Jules is "funny," and "easy to talk to," but she fails to create any scenes which show the reader as much.

When the central drama revolves around what didn't happen for a particular character thirty years prior, things get pretty stale, and fast. While I managed to finish this one through, and at times I found myself enjoying certain aspects of Wolitzer's description of a changng NYC through the 70s and into the new millennia, on the whole, I found this book exceptionally uninteresting.
209 reviews
August 12, 2013
While the main character irked me at times with her jealousy and how unappreciative she was of her own life and talents, the author created her with the saving grace of self-awareness of these traits. The fact that she isn't blind to the absurdity of her envy of her friends was redeeming for me in a way.

The author touched on a lot of meaningful themes that resonated with me.
--Am I now who I thought I would become when I was young?
--Is it significant that I may not be how I thought I would be?
--How does the creativity or talent of youth translate into adult life?

Much of Jules' life, she is consumed by nostalgia for the past, for one idyllic summer at a camp for creative kids that is her touchstone for the rest of her adolescence into her adulthood. This nostalgia stymies her growth as she clings to the ideal she had of herself and her life in the past, which inhibits her from fully inhabiting her life as an adult.

In their youth, the group of friends all consider themselves talented artists in one way or another, but the way this translates into adulthood varies. Some of them do end up following the dreams of that summer-- Ethan the cartoonist and actress-turned-director Ash-- and others, including Jules, end up with very different lives. Jules remains bitter for much of the book that the creativity of her youth doesn't pan out into a lifelong career. I thought this was such a meaningful point; adolescents are so bombarded with images of adults in glamorous and artistic careers that I feel like it can almost feel like a failure when you find purpose doing something less special and less typically creative. So much of adolescence is really performance art, preening and presenting yourself in a way to appeal to others, that it seems like a more insular, less "interesting" career or life is a capitulation to growing up, aging, getting boring. But Jules' career (therapy) is so meaningful, and she is really good at it, and yet she feels like it isn't enough for her. Just because it's not something you necessarily dream about being at a young age doesn't mean it's not important, but Jules can't see that.

I love the conversation between Jonah and Ethan towards the end of the book where Jonah, who was a talented musician in his childhood, tells Ethan the secret about why he didn't pursue a career in music.

Ethan replies, "I don't want to sound insensitive here, but you could still do some music anyway, right?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, couldn't you just play?"
"Just play?"
"On your own, or with friends. You know, the way Dennis and his friends play football, and they're not in shape, right? But they enjoy it, and some of them are good, some of them worship the game. People do that all the time with music. They sit around playing whenever they get together. Does it have to be a job?"

I felt like applauding when I read that conversation because it put into words a feeling I get often, especially in the era of Facebook and Twitter and 24/7 humblebragging and oversharing... why not just do something because you love it, and not as a performance for others? And the fact that Jonah is so oblivious to that as even an option shows how foreign a concept that's become.

Jules becomes obsessed with comparing her life to the lives of her childhood friends, and this is another theme I thought the author fleshed out really well. In a lot of ways, the characters of the books were really like mirrors held up to 30/40 somethings, where I found myself frustrated and annoyed with the characters who often seemed to have such obvious and exaggerated traits, but also, upon taking a step back, really seeing myself and some of my own neuroses and self-defeating behavior in them.

Jules in particular retains such a singular selfishness, so typical of teenagers, that in the end is turned around on her by her sister.

"I'm sorry if I made you jealous."
..."Why would I have been jealous?" Ellen said.
"Oh, because I always went on and on about my friends, and the camp, and the Wolf family and everything. I thought that was why you, you know, treated me kind of coldly."
Ellen said, "No, I treated you kind of coldly because I was kind of a bitch. I treated everyone that way, didn't you notice?... But it's just who I am; I can't really help it. No, don't worry, Jules, I was never jealous of you."

The realization that her sister was wrapped up in her own selfish world, too, as a teenager seemed really significant, as did Jules' and Steve's failed summer camp takeover and the death of an important camp friend. By the end of the book, it really felt like Jules was ready to possibly move on with her life.

Finally, I thought the author's explicit treatment of the role that privilege plays in life, especially in the life of someone wanting to strike out as an artist, was really refreshing. I'm so sick of reading about people born into situations where they automatically get a head start in life who are so blind to the opportunities presented to them. This book's main character, Jules, born into a very modest family, is hyper-aware of the differences between her life and the charmed lives of her friends at camp. It really made me think of the connections between privilege and career choices and marriage, especially in the context of the super-marriage of Ethan and Ash. Would either of them have succeeded as artists without the massive wealth of the other (at different times in the book)? Is that well-financed, easy art really demonstrative of creativity, or just of class and circumstance?

I really wasn't expecting this book to be so thought-provoking but a lot of substance is beneath the surface of this book. Definitely recommended!
Profile Image for Vanessa.
462 reviews291 followers
May 5, 2019
I felt like I was reading this book forever but I did enjoy most of it. It could have been slightly condensed at times but I was never bored so I don’t begrudge the length. The story really is an examination of friendship, the highs the lows and all the pit falls that involve long term friendships, especially those formed during adolescence where everything is heightened and friendship is EVERYTHING.

The group of friends first meet up at a arty summer camp and quickly coin themselves ironically as “The Interestings” the story follows a few of the main characters and how their lives continually intersect. Their tight kinship holds so much weight, and the meaningfulness of these friendships get tested in many different ways over the ensuing years. The friends tackle many different stages of their friendship. Through marriages, careers, kids, divorce and their own immortality. While the core friends remain solid for the most parts, a few break away and jealousy, regret, shame, and individual inadequacies are exposed and this is what I enjoyed most about my reading experience. The author really finds all the nitty gritty parts of navigating the transitions from adolescence friendship to adulthood and does it so well.
Profile Image for Heather.
450 reviews31 followers
February 19, 2016
The most effusive 5 star rating i have given in a while...this is another "book coma" one for me, where i am gonna have to take a few days off from reading because I'm going to be pissed off at any book that isn't this book for some time. The writing sucked me in immediatly, and even though i read fiction like it's my job...and thankfully it kind of is...that doesn't happen very often. Then, the themes of the book...at times I would have sworn someone was following me around with a hidden camera, since so much of the major themes were things I have dealt with, questioned, pondered on....and then specific plot points seemed to be ripped from my own experience too. Sorry if that's a narcisstic review, but there it is. i related to it, painfully so at times, was always invested, and hated to see it end. So far, and by far, my favorite book of 2013.
Profile Image for Richard Kramer.
Author 1 book75 followers
March 10, 2013
This totally annoyed me, because it's fantastic and it's the book I wanted to write next if I was good enough to write it, which I'm probably not. It would be condescending and untrue to say of Meg Wolitzer that her work just keeps getting better, because it's always good. This one especially moved me, maybe because I saw myself in all its characters. And I like a longish book that pisses you off because it ends and now you've read it and what the fuck are you supposed to do now?
Profile Image for Celeste Ng.
Author 15 books87k followers
February 16, 2015
Why did I wait so long to read this? It came out years ago and everyone I knew raved about it. But I wanted to wait until I had a chunk of time to settle into it and enjoy it--and I'm so glad I did. It's one of the most thoughtful and poignant examinations of friendship--and marriage and ambition--that I've ever seen.
256 reviews
February 7, 2016
Meg Wolitzer is a good writer and the first 100 pages vividly captures the angst-y itch of being adolescent and artistic, but as the plot progresses and the characters continue to act like their selfish and immature selves well into middle age, I ultimately lost interest in them.

Wolitzer brings up many important topics (e.g., rape, 9/11, and AIDS, as well as themes of unrequited love, the role of money in friendships, morality and ethics between friends and couples, etc.) but everything is discussed briefly and superficially. It doesn't help that Wolitzer often uses the third-person omniscient voice so that you're not quite sure whether she is trying to make a generic or specific point, evoking a time in the present or future.

In addition, some of the plot turns were so tangential and irrelevant that it almost seemed like Wolitzer was just working off of a list of social themes and major events for each decade (e.g., Reverend Moon and his religious cult for the 1980s, the World Wide Web for the 1990s, hedge funds in the millenium, etc.)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,522 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.