When Baz Luhrman announced to the world that his latest film was called ‘Australia’, I was filled with trepidation. While the adage don’t judge a book by its cover may ring true (it doesn’t – we all judge), a project’s title sets the tone for the entire body of work. I had already prejudged the film because I have my own preconceptions about Australia, the land of my birth and life. Inevitably, I did not enjoy the film. In fact, I did not see it through to the final scene and gave up about half way along. Sorry Baz, you should have called it ‘Outback’.
So when I stumbled across a book called ‘The Interestings’, that same feeling of trepidation came over me. It would want to be, as the title suggests, interesting. The title actually refers to the name a group of young teenagers give their clique. But this self-appointed moniker is a little ironic given one of the protagonists meanders through a fairly feckless existence filled with disappointments and unfulfilled potential. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this novel because I found myself highly engaged throughout much of it. However, the benchmark the book set for itself meant that any moments of shade against the light were going to be judged as lacklustre.
One of the problems with books that cover a wide era is that arcs of time need to be managed carefully. It seemed that one minute the 1990s were upon the characters and then, oh wow, it’s September 11. Moving on, the characters are 50. I’m not sure why the author chose to cover such a significant moment in world history if its effect on her characters was the mere passage of time.
So perhaps this book would have been better titled ‘See-Saw’ as that is truly how it felt.