Book Review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.
Fates and Furies is the portrait of a marriage. The first half, Fates, is about Lotto, the narcissistic playwright who is married to Mathilda. They meet at the end of college and marry two weeks later. Mathilde lovingly supports Lotto while he struggles with his acting career. She remains a devoted wife after gives up on acting and becomes a supremely successful playwright. However, because of his extreme self-centeredness, he actually knows little about her other than the fact that, in his words, she is a saint. Lotto’s section is a little slow and he is not that likeable, although at times he was so pathetic that I did feel sorry for him. I considered abandoning this book a couple of times.
The second half of the novel, Furies, is Mathilde’s story. It begins in her childhood and continues throughout her entire marriage to Lotto, replaying its key moments from her perspective. We learn that Mathilde is not who Lotto thought she was. At all. I am so glad that I kept reading. It reminded me of Gone Girl, in that while reading the first part, I was thinking, sure this is okay but what is everyone making such a fuss about? And then BAM, the story takes a turn that leaves your head spinning. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on this book. The second half made it totally worth it.
Since this book got off to a slow start, I didn’t read very carefully in the beginning. Upon finishing the book, I wish I had and I’m tempted to go back and re-read Lotto’s story since so much of Mathilde’s story is Lotto’s story turned upside down.
(Side note: President Obama named this book as his favorite of 2015. I have to mention that I was kind of surprised that he named this book as his favorite because there is fair amount of sex in it and some of it is on the strange side. It isn’t super graphic but it is descriptive. I’m not saying that I think Obama should be a prude. I’m proud of him from not shying away from putting this book on his public favorites list and not worrying that his detractors would call him perverted or something.)
Fate and Furies is any examination of one marriage that raises the question for any marriage: Can you ever really know your partner? I think it would make a great book club selection to discuss this question further. Thanks for recommending this book Obama!