The Interestings opens on Julie Jacobson in 1974, starting her first summer at a camp for artistic teens called Spirit-in-the-Woods. New and insecure, she gets “adopted” by a group of five seasoned campers, who christen themselves the “Interestings” (and upgrade her name to a cooler-sounding “Jules”). The rest of the book follows Jules and the five other characters (Ethan, Jonah, Cathy, Ash, and Goodman) from adolescence through middle age, weaving back and forth in time.
The camp is the first place Jules feels she fits in, and she idealizes it and the people she met there – which Macee pointed out shapes the rest of her life. Donna noted that most people long to be a part of a group like this one, which explains why Jules (and other characters) sometimes put loyalty to the group above doing the right thing. Liz observed that many of us felt this way as teenagers – that our group of friends are the only people who understand.
The book is also about talent and success. We all noted that (like us and like many people) the teenage Interestings define artistic achievement as success, but later, use wealth and security to compare themselves to others. Some people’s talents are stolen from them by manipulation; others just don’t make it at their art. Some characters get the chance to answer the question “what might have been?” and some don’t. In some ways, Liz pointed out, the book is about the value of living an ordinary life – one character, near the end of the novel, exclaims, “Most people aren’t talented. So what are they supposed to do – kill themselves?”
We all mentioned Meg Wolitzer’s writing as a factor in our reading enjoyment. Donna talked about the raw, honest emotions that came out in authentic-sounding conversations between people who have known each other for years. Macee appreciated the vivid descriptions, and the way the novel seamlessly moved from past to present and back again. While it took some of us longer to get engaged with the plot than others, we were all hooked soon, and all finished it within two weeks.
-Review by: Donna Bacchiocchi, Manager of Technical Services; Macee Damon, Reference/Catalog Librarian; and Liz Galoozis, Reference Librarian/Research Instruction Coordinator
Check It Out
A.S. Byatt’s latest novel has a lot in common with her previous ones; it’s an intricately detailed work of historical fiction that follows a group of families through several generations. This one centers on a group of artists and writers, following them from the Victorian era through to World War One. The characters, I thought, were the best part of the book. They’re realistic and vivid, and even though there are a lot of them, it’s not that hard to keep track of them. Wanting to know what they would do kept me going through occasionally tedious descriptions of artwork, buildings, and landscapes. The characters also play out some really interesting ideas of the time, like the ways progressiveness and “free thinking” sometimes lead to real change, and sometimes just to a circle of people in a room, talking in circles. It’s a good book to read in long stretches, which makes it ideal for summer.
-review by Liz Galoozis, Reference Librarian/Coordinator of User Education
Check It Out
Check our catalog to see if this book is available.
To learn more about the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th century depicted in the book, check out this exhibit catalog from the library’s collection, or an interactive guide from the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is also featured prominently as a location in The Children’s Book.