Paradox of marriage: You can never know someone entirely; you do know someone entirely.
This book has been on every avid book reader’s lips for quite some time, so I was curious to see what all the excitement was about. Along with the constant buzz of Lauren Groff’s latest novel, there were a lot of mixed emotions and reviews of the novel. After a long debate of whether I wanted to read a novel with such mixed opinions, I decided to be a fair judge and read the book myself instead of lean on the numerous blog posts and Goodreads reviews. I found my reading experience to be just as muddled as some of the reviews. Groff writes with a quiet urgency and her prose is a canvas of vivid color and imagery; yet, there is a lightness on the tongue when you read it. The pages melt and sink into your veins, but you don’t feel the movement of the words until you reach the end.
[Mathilde’s Prayer: Let me be the wave. And if I cannot be the wave, let me be the rupture at the bottom. Let me be that terrible first rift in the dark.]
Lotto and Mathilde are meant for each other. Deeply in every way, knitted together with the cords of the heart. At least, that’s what everyone else seems to think. Groff this paints the idea of marriage and grand scheme of love as beautiful-intriguing. Lotto and Mathilde’s marriage is envied from everyone that comes in contact with them. However, when the rose colored glass are removed from the milky eyes, one can see that their marriage is filled crescents of darkness and blank space.
The book is dived into two sections Fates and then Furies. The first part Fates focuses on the husband Lotto (Lancelot) Satterwhite. Lotto grows up with high expectations placed upon his shoulders at a young age. His mother pushes him to become a prodigy of some sort and constantly encourages him to be the best in everything. Lotto becomes a struggling actor, fighting to pay rent, to a successful playwright able to buy anything he wants. Lotto’s cocky, confident, charismatic personality ultimately leads to his downfall, giving the readers a very selfish outlook on how he lived his life. Groff doesn’t make Lotto despicable but she doesn’t make him particularly likable either.
The second part of the novel is called Furies. Mathilde’s perspective of the marriage is illuminated as Groff tells her side of the same story but from her viewpoint and experiences. Groff reveals the darker side of Mathilde that is hidden when told from Lotto’s perspective. Mathilde is the anti-hero as she is also not quite unlikable but not favored either. Although Mathilde is the known to be a loving and doting wife of Lotto, there is a gray shadowed corner of her life and emotions that the general eye and even Lotto does not see. Because much of the meat of the story happens from Mathilde’s perspective, it’s best to read the book without knowing much beforehand.
There were a lot of negative reviews of Fates and Furies but there was a good balance of positive reviews to counter balance it. It took a moment to really get into the novel, as some of the prose is way too fluffy and a bit pretentious. At times, I felt as Groff was over reaching and trying too hard to make it an art masterpiece. Although the prose was really beautiful in areas, I did have moments where I just rolled my eyes at the grandiose of it all. For the first half of the novel, the pace is slow and you have to really pull through to get into the marrow of the story. Once the novel gained momentum, I found myself really enjoying it, and took in the literary beauty of it more. The characters aren’t likable as I mentioned before, but I did feel more empathetic towards Mathilde which I believe was the author’s intention. I like that Mathilde has a darkness in her and she doesn’t define “marriage” or “wife” as a typical construct. Instead, Groff takes the idea of marriage and being in love and really explores the dark caverns that often times in the public eye goe unnoticed. It’s an interesting read, but one that I would recommended. Despite the mixed opinions on the book, I overall really enjoyed it and gave it four stars on Goodreads. If you are a fan of lush prose, then you most likely will enjoy Fates and Furies.