The Interestings is a bit like J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy in that it’s hard to tell people what it’s about and some people complain that it’s not about anything much, but I personally liked it a lot. I really enjoy stories about fairly ordinary people living their ordinary lives, as long as they’re written in a compelling way that makes the characters and their dilemmas seem real, and it’s something I find Wolitzer does very well in The Interestings. But I can see how readers who like a strongly plot-driven story might find it slow.
The Interestings follows a group of friends who meet at an arts camp in their teens. All but Julie come from wealthy homes, some extremely wealthy; Julie is surprised to find herself accepted into a clique of well-off and talented kids. Each one of their group of friends dreams of making his or her mark on the world but only one, Ethan, actually hits the big time. One of the many interesting themes this novel explores is how it affects a group of friends when one couple suddenly becomes fabulously (think Speilbergishly) wealthy and famous, while others are living a middle-class lifestyle. The strength of lifelong friendships, the cracked foundations of secrets and lies upon which those relationships are often built, the durability and fragility of marriages, are all explored here, as the core group of characters, based in and around New York City in the 1990s and early 2000s, interact with each other and with the changing world around them. But the central theme, for me, was the whole idea of a group of young people who would label themselves “The Interestings” and truly believe in their talent and ability accomplish their dreams. What happens when those dreams aren’t fulfilled? And, perhaps just as fascinating, what happens when they are?
I found the characters in The Interestings to be well-drawn, with a wealth of believable detail that made following their lives rewarding, even if there were no murders, car chases or explosions.