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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – Unsettling and Surprising

3rd December, 2016

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Lotto grows up in a privileged household but he has a difficult childhood. When he meets Mathilde he instantly falls in love. Their relationship is a mystery to their close friends and  family, but Lotto and Mathilde seem to be madly in love even after decades. Fates and Furies tells the story of the love, creative struggle and secrets that bind them together.

Review

Fates and Furies is the story of a marriage. The book is divided into two parts, Fates, that tells the story from Lotto’s perspective and Furies, which tells the story of the union from Mathilde’s point of view. Groff couldn’t have ordered the narration in a better way. In Fates we hear the story of how Lotto and Mathilde fall in love and end up in a hasty marriage. Lotto has big dreams which Mathilde can support him in realizing. In turn, Lotto gives her stability and care: things which she craves for. The couple complement each other and remain physically intimate without breaking apart, much to the surprise of their friends who gamble on how short lived their marriage would be. In the second part of the novel, we hear this story of a happy marriage from the perfect wife that Mathilde was.

Well Fleshed out Characters

A man named Lancelot or “Lotto” struggles to succeed in life. His aunt and his parents believe he is destined to be someone great. Although he comes from a privileged background, Lotto experiences a difficult childhood. He finds solace in several sexual encounters until he meets Mathilde and falls in love. Their love is sudden and intense and he gets married to her, whereby Mathilde is introduced to Lotto’s group of close friends and their get-together-parties.

Mathilde, on the other hand, is glamourous but quieter. She doesn’t have many (or any) friends and steps into the role of an ideal wife very easily. Although both Lotto and Mathilde had aspirations, it is Lotto who succeeds to become a well known playwright after a failed stint as an actor, his initial career goal. Mathilde supports him financially by taking a job at the art gallery and socially by being the perfect hostess at parties . Lotto describes Mathilde as “She gave up her job years ago to make mine run more smoothly. She loves to cook and clean and edit my work, it makes her happy to do these things.

In addition, Lotto’s friends and his family members make appearances for brief intervals in the novel.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Perspectives

Memory is a strange thing. It modifies itself in the mind of the host as time passes. In Lotto’s memory, Mathilde says yes to his proposal instantly and they have sex for the first time. In Mathilde’s memory, she says no. Lotto’s memories are happier while Mathilde’s memories are dominated by her struggle to pay the bills and her sacrifices and misery.

Writing

Long periods of Lotto’s life are conveyed through the plays he writes. Mathilde’s narrative is much more fragmented and skips around different periods of her life. Lotto’s narration has a dream-like voice while Mathilde has a more practical and furious tone to it. I found this change in style of the narratives very refreshing.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies

The name reminds me of the phrase ‘calm before the storm’. That is just what book this is. The POVs of Lotto and Mathilde show the stark asymmetry in their memories of the marriage. You sail through Fates as a passive reader, as someone who sees the marriage from the public eye. Then comes the Furies, that plunges you into an abyss of truths and revelations. The story felt like a thriller in the second part of the novel, very different from the soothing narration in the first part.

Final Verdict :

I loved the read. Even though the language was beautiful, I felt the plot did not pick up during the whole first half of the novel (Fates). I was in for a literary tsunami in the second half (Furies), complete with plot twists, lyrical prose and a thrilling pace. If you pick this read I would urge you to form an opinion only after starting the second half of the novel, in case it doesn’t grab you right away.

Chance plays a huge part in the novel. The book says “ The gods love to fuck with us”. Ultimately the reader is left to reflect on how much of one’s life is chiseled by fate and how much by the fury of human mind.

You might be interested in this podcast on Litup Show – Episode 25 : Lauren Groff on Sex, Marriage and Feminism

Title : Fates and Furies
Author : Lauren Groff
Publisher : William Heinemann
Published : 2015
Language : English
Pages : 400
Rating : 4/5

Let's discuss

Have you read any books by Lauren Groff? If you have read the book, did you like the difference in style of writing between the first and second halves?

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Fates and Furies

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This Post Has 30 Comments
  1. Oh, I loved this book. You are absolutely right to caution a reader not to give up until you start reading Mathilde’s section. That’s when the book came alive for me. It was one of my favorites last year based on her part alone. I LOVE the pictures with your review – beautiful colors! Your edition of the book is gorgeous.

  2. Yes, I liked the second part of it much more than the first, and Mathilde’s version of events rang truer (although still skewed, of course). I wasn’t as enamoured with it as Obama seems to have been, though.

  3. What funny timing, I just finished this book last week! I agree that the book picked up in the second half, but I’m still trying to figure out how I felt about the book overall. I can definitely see why it was so successful and popular when it first came out last year, but I was a little emotionally burnt out by the end of the book, because I felt like too much had happened to Mathilde that I couldn’t find the energy to care anymore. It seemed a little too cliched to me, to have such a scheming & ferocious wife and a happy-go-lucky husband. Did you feel worn out by the end of the book?

    I’ll definitely check out that podcast. I’d love to hear Groff’s discussion to help me process this tsunami of a book!

    1. Hey, since you just finished the book, the read would be fresh in your mind. I didn’t feel tires after the whole book. The overload of info on Mathilde’s life was a relief for me since Lotto’s part was pretty dull. I must admit I felt very tired after Lotto’s version because I didn’t feel like reading on. Hope you find the podcast useful

  4. I liked this book, but I did think the first section was too long and I grew impatient with it.
    I loved the idea of a married couple having completely different perspectives of their lives.

  5. I hated the characters in this book so much I couldn’t get beyond them when I rated this book (which probably means Groff did a great job, haha). I do think the second half is more exciting than the first. But man, I did NOT like this book much.

  6. I was one of those readers for whom the first half was a bit tedious and so I’d fallen out of love with it before the furies section which admittedly was much more to my liking. Great review which really sums up this novel well.

    1. Thanks Cleo. I understand what you mean. The whole time I was reading Fates I was thinking what is it that attracts people to this novel? Why do they say it is an excellent read? I found out only after reading Furies

  7. Sounds intriguing. Fates and furies is very Greek. I will need to find a way to get english books. The only english bookstore I know here is now too far from where we just moved. But thanks for the review anyway.
    Take care
    B.

  8. Wow, what a gorgeous book & colorful book. I’d love to take pictures of it!
    I know that many readers don’t like books that have slow beginning. Many DNF those kinds of books and may miss out on a rewarding second half! I like to give books chances. I do DNF, but do so rarely. 🙂

    1. Me too. I try to read the end atleast if the book is so boring.

      About Fates and Furies, I was going to DNF it. Then a friend told me it is after the second part that the pace picks up. A good thing that I heeded her advice.

  9. Ah, your photos and reviews are always so fabulous, Resh Susan. I especially love the orchids you used in the photoshoot for Fates and Furies. 😉 And thanks for the heads up that this picks up in the second half; I’ll certainly keep that in mind when I start it.

  10. Beautiful pictures!

    I haven’t read “Fates and Furies” but I heard a lot about it and your review makes me think that I would really enjoy it. This double narration seems very interesting, and I’m also quite curious about these plot twists…

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