Title: The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Page Count/Review Word Count: 468
Disclaimer: While I aim to be unbiased, I received a copy of this for free to review.
Wow, what can I say? I’m a convert. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first picked up this book, considering it started off set in an American summer camp, the kind of place that a British boy like me has no experience of whatsoever. Luckily, that plays a relatively minor role in the narrative, although it sure as hell leaves its mark on the protagonists.
And I can safely say, hand on heart, that this is one of the most interesting (geddit?) and well-written modern novels that I’ve read in a long time, a credit to both Wolitzer and to the Waterstones book club, which is the reason why I read it in the first place. I’m glad I did – I don’t often give a book a ten out of ten when I review it, I reserve that honour for a book that left me changed when I reached the ending. That definitely happened here.
Particularly worthy of credit is Wolitzer’s ability to write about characters of both sexes convincingly – too many novelists can only write about their own gender, but Wolitzer’s characters are well-rounded and believable whether they’re male or female, even if you don’t necessarily like them.
There’s even a rape involved, an event that’s covered with ambiguity and extremely well-handled – despite being unnecessarily hailed as a ‘feminist writer’ (this annoys me as much as Graham Greene being a ‘Catholic writer‘, rather than just a ‘writer’), Wolitzer lends equal gravitas to both sides of the argument. You’re never quite sure who’s telling the truth, and in the end you feel kind of sorry for both parties, although I’m sure everyone has their own idea of what really happened by the end of the novel.
My only gripe is with the title – to be fair, it has significance (it’s the name that the group of teenage campers assigns to themselves), and it has been praised by other people. I’m just not a fan of the approach of taking an adjective and turning it in to a noun for the title of a book or a movie – it’s done all the time, as with The Incredibles, The Expendables and even The Inbetweeners.
But overall, The Interestings is an epic novel, a must-read whether you’re old or young, American or British, an introvert or an extrovert. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did, and I almost cried at the end – not the reaction you’d expect from a male in his mid-twenties, a geeky book blogger who reads on the bus to work. Meg Wolitzer, I salute you, and I look forward to reading more of your work. Make sure you stay interesting.