Another reading recommendation picked up from listening to Radio Four’s Book Club, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings follows a group of six young Americans who meet and become lifelong friends at Summer Camp – that American institution and rite of passage that glowed with glamour and exciting opportunities when gazed at from the Birmingham suburbs of my teenage years.
The novel focuses on two of the friends, Julie ‘Jules’ Jacobson and Ethan Figman. Jules, who discovers a passion for performance at the camp, learns the hard way that even with talent (and more talent than she has) the stage is a hard place to forge a career, especially without family money behind you. Ethan is the one member of the group with true talent, and his gift for animation and storytelling brings riches and opportunities beyond belief.
But at the heart of the novel are the events of one night in their late teens when one of the group alleges rape by another, and the consequences that flow for the couple themselves and for the six friends.
The Wife is my first Meg Wolitzer. I only picked it up because I’d been unable to find The Interestings on the Barbican Library bookshelf, my appetite for that particular Wolitzer whetted by her recent turn on BBC Radio 4’s World Book Club.
It wasn’t until I looked at the cover of The Wife that I realised she’d written the book behind the recent film starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce. Not that I’ve seen the film, but it did mean I read the book knowing the final twist, and able to spot the clues en route.