Thursday 26 April 2018

Review: 'The Interestings' by Meg Wolitzer

Sex, cash and jealousy in a tale of dreams gone awry

EMMA HAGESTADT

ON a warm night in 1974, six teenagers gather in a teepee at an exclusive New England summer camp. They will be companions for life.

Sitting in the shadows is Jules Jacobson, a suburban 15-year-old who can't quite believe she's been included. Her fellow campers seem like "royalty and French movie stars". Giddy on Günter Grass, the group decide to christen themselves The Interestings, "because we are just so fucking compelling, our brains swollen with intellectual thoughts".

Meg Wolitzer has been entertaining us with her humorous and hyper-smart fiction for over three decades. Many of her previous novels have discussed the fallout of the sexual revolution on the succeeding generation.

In this expansive ninth work, she boldly tracks the fate of a band of friends, asking what happens when life's imagined trajectory goes wildly off-piste.

Jules's most intense friendship over that summer is with Ethan Figman – a genius at animation who will later create a Simpsons-style hit. Best friend Ash Wolf, an ethereal Manhattanite, is dating gentle guitarist Jonah. The Interestings have changed Jules's life, but the burden of "promise" will prove weighty.

Wolitzer moves her characters confidently through the decades, reprising the Reagan era, the emergence of Aids, and an ever-changing New York in all its "unlivable, unleaveable" glory.

Sex, money, jealousy and failure of nerve are all here. Just because the novel will make you laugh doesn't mean that Wolitzer should not deserve a place in the tepee alongside more established literary hard-hitters.

Jules comes to the realisation that she no longer needs to be "the one who wrote and starred in the play that got the standing ovation".

Luckily for us, Wolitzer has ignored her own advice. A summer-camp alliance sets the course for lives that intersect across decades of change.

 

The Interestings

Meg Wolitzer

Chatto & Windus

€22.70

 

Irish Independent

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