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The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle.
Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing During the long, hot summer of , working-class teenager Julie falls in with a precocious and privileged clique at a prestigious New England arts camp. In the nefarious, thoroughly repulsive summer of , year-old Julie Jacobson, an outsider and possibly even a freak from the suburbs, gets a scholarship to an arts camp and falls in with a group of kids the aptly self-named Interestings.
There Julie, renamed Jules, finds her place, and Wolitzer her story: the gap between promise and genuine talent, the bonds and strains of long friendships, and the journey from youth to middle age, with all its compromises, secrets, lies, and disparities. One member of the group, Jonah, is the son of a famous folk singer, and another, Ethan, becomes an extremely successful animator, and another Interestings member whose brother-in-law is accused of raping a girl in the group, flees his court date and disappears.
Meanwhile, Jules, the character Wolitzer focuses on, becomes a therapist, marries a nice guy with no interest in being as interesting as her camp friends, and copes with jealousy and not having enough money in New York City.
While Wolitzer The Ten-Year Nap is adept at switching between past and present, and showing the different fears that dog Jules at different ages, the problem is that the Interestings are never quite as interesting as this page look at them requires them to be. I really liked the characters, especially Jules and Ethan. The ending and the final section, though, seem contrived somewhat, hence the less-than-stellar ranking.
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But on the plus side, this was a captivating read for most of the book, and the writing was terrific. All in all I'm very glad I read it, and overall thoroughly enjoyed it. 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.
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