Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Book Review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Author: Lauren Groff
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Content Alert: sex
Today the National Book Awards are being announced. I've read three of the five finalists (you can see my reviews of The Turner House and A Little Life), and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff would be my pick if I were judging. I was captivated by the first page of the book, which opens on the day Lotto and Mathilde, seniors at Vassar, elope after two weeks of dating. Lotto, the scion of a wealthy Florida family, struggles as an actor, and when he finds success as a playwright, he credits all of it to Mathilde, who loved him and made his work possible. First, we get Lotto's view of the marriage, and after his death (about midway through the book), the point of view switches to Mathilde, whose outlook on the relationship was more pragmatic and less rosy.
I read an NPR review of the book that says that Lotto's perspective represents the fates (the gifts) while Mathilde's represents the furies (the vengeance), but I think it's a lot more complicated than that. Lotto and Mathilde enter the marriage as nearly complete strangers, and while they do love each other and stay married for a long time, they (or at least she) still keep parts of themselves secret. I love the epic nature of this book (how could it be anything else with a title so grounded in Greek mythology?), and the focus on the minutae of marriage. Lotto and Mathilde are gorgeous, fully-rounded characters, and one of the things I loved best was that they still had the capacity to surprise each other, in good ways and in bad, even years into their marriage. Fates and Furies isn't only a love story, or the story of a marriage, because Mathilde's story is also a lot about childhood trauma, grief and resolution. Although the subject matter is difficult at times, it was a really engaging read for me. I wanted to gobble this book up, and then I was sad when it was over.