Aug 202016

The Interestings

By Meg Wolitzer

Two Stars

Read September 2014

After the death of her father, a middle-class kid from Long Island wins a scholarship to an arts camp for teens in the Berkshires and falls in with a group of mostly wealthy Manhattanites who dub themselves “The Interestings.” Except they aren’t very interesting, really, especially after they reach adulthood and the story settles in as one long whine by Jules, the Long Islander, whose life is dominated by her corrosive envy of her best girl friend, Ash, who marries the homely genius Jules rejected and winds up a globetrotting celebrity when his primetime cartoon turns out to be an endless cash machine. Meg Wolitzer’s story begins in 1974 and feels like a throwback to the novels popular at that time — long multi-character rags-to-riches sagas that spanned decades and offered behind-the-scenes details of privileged lives. Wolitzer hits many of the touchstones of the eras she covers, everything from LSD and Moonies to 9/11 and Asian sweatshops, but some of her subsidiary characters are more of a distraction than anything else. Despite the large cast, in the end this is Jules’ book, and as the years pass, my initial sympathy for her turned into deep dislike. Envy is an ugly emotion, and Jules spends a quarter century embracing it rather than trying to get over it, making herself, her long-suffering husband and this reader miserable.