It is never easy to write about the world the way it is. To talk of love and friendships and everything that takes place in between is never something that can be done without wrenching the way you feel about them. I have always admired writers who can manage this and continue to do so, because it takes a lot out of the writer to dig in and generate stories that resonate long after you have finished the book. Books that speak of growing up and its challenges and make me realize how I feel about the way things are, manage to be very close to my heart, and one such book that I have read off-late is, “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer.
“The Interestings” begins kind of slowly, almost letting you see how things got to where they did. However once that is shaken off, the book somersaults into various kinds of emotions and that is where the narrative is the strongest. The writing reminded me of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen – more so because of the back and forth in time, almost linear in narrative and sometimes just spellbinding. It is a chronicle of four decades and the lives of six strangers who become friends at a summer camp in the seventies and how their lives change every year after that. The narrative and action takes place mostly in New York and that is another charm of the book. This is the basic plot of the book and as the adage goes, there’s more to what meets the eye and it could not get truer for this work.
I had never read anything by Wolitzer before this one, but I sure will now. The references throughout the book of the decades gone by are extremely interesting. What is even more interesting is how she manages to stick her story inside all of this and make each and every character stand out. She speaks of the rituals of childhood, the dilemmas of adulthood and how when middle-age takes over, it comes with envy in its wake. The writing is dynamic, with a lot happening on almost every page and maybe that is one of the reasons I wanted to put it down and take in every word page by page and moment by moment.
The various friendships forged throughout the book just reminded me of my relationships and people who I have held close for years. It also reminded me of friends who have drifted away. That is the effect of this book. It not only makes you think, but also feel. The subject matter of the book may not be original – since it is about friendships being forged and then not working out at some level, however the way Wolitzer writes is something very unique and brilliant.
The writing is economical and yet the expressions aren’t. Wolitzer manages to capture the essence of every single emotion. From a successful couple to a one who is not so and how their friendship takes on its own form and shape. The novel provides various insights and various perspectives and that is something which is hard to miss. Each character has his or her voice and that helps a lot as you turn the pages. It is not a story told from one perspective or a single person, which I loved the most about this one.
“The Interestings” title comes from the fact that the six friends do not want to be boring and Wolitzer ensures that for the reader at every single page. Characters are forever growing in this one and that is what makes the book so unique. The cover of the book is retro and says a lot and connects wonderfully to the plot. A must read for all. I totally recommend this one wholeheartedly.