Should You Read The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer?

“On a warm night in early July of that long-evaporated year, The Interestings gathered for the very first time. They were only fifteen, sixteen, and they began to call themselves the name with tentative irony.”

– Opening of The Interestings

The Interestings is a literary fiction novel that follows a small cast of characters who start as gifted artistic teenagers and grow to see what becomes of their talents and their lives. One becomes famous, another is able to do the work she’s dreamt of with a lesser degree of success, one becomes a spectacular failure, and others find themselves falling into more ordinary roles within society. None, however, find themselves with what they really wanted. The novel follows their individual quests for happiness, fulfillment, and success, with all the ups and downs of life, their stories sometimes branching apart and sometimes becoming intertwined. It’s an exploration of what it means to be “talented” and “successful”, both in general and in the society we live in.

This is one of those books where all the characters are imperfect and happy endings are far from guaranteed. It uses limited omniscience to reveal information, skip around in time, and present the reader with certain judgments, but it tends to focus on one character per chapter, dipping into his or her thoughts alone. I found this to be an interesting technique, and I particularly enjoyed how easily it moved the reader forwards and backwards while letting each scene shine no matter where in the timeline it was located.

On the other hand, there were certain places where I found myself negatively judging both the characters and the narrator, which I was personally disappointed by. Some scenes seemed to do a good job of pointing the reader to the fact that the point of view characters were very wrong in their assessments, but other times the narrator was either absent or apparently agreed with them in a way that didn’t sit right with me.

Regardless, the writing itself was very good, and I would recommend it to any other writers (aspiring or otherwise) who want to explore and learn from its techniques. For more casual readers, it might fit the bill if you enjoy realistic fiction and are prepared to keep your own head about you as you read. It seems to be the sort of book that almost expects you to be making your own judgments and contemplating the characters and their fates. And perhaps it could be the sort of book that causes you to open your eyes and alter your own course in life, which would certainly make it very valuable indeed.

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