Fates and Furies
by Lauren Groff
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Length: 390 Pages
Release date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Riverhead Books
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.
Great swaths of her life were white space to her husband. What she did not tell him balanced neatly with what she did. Still, there are untruths made of words and untruths made of silences, and Mathilde had only ever lied to Lotto in what she never said.
Fates and Furies is the story of Lotto and Mathilde’s marriage, and is told in two parts: the first half is told primarily from Lotto’s perspective, followed by Mathilde’s perspective in the second half. The halves are remarkably different in tone. Lotto’s chapters reminded me somewhat of Tin Man and The Book of Speculation. There is an odd, dreamy, rambling quality to Lotto’s musings.
To be honest, despite my overall positive feelings towards this book, I didn’t quite care for Lotto’s half. This is nothing against the writing, as Groff’s style is delightfully weird and evocative. My issue was with Lotto as a character; he is, in short, a jackass. He is painfully a self-absorbed playwright and loves Mathilde deeply only in the sense that he views her as a possession, and Lotto loves his toys. It’s also extremely evident even before reaching Mathilde’s POV chapters that Lotto views her through rose colored glasses in a big way. He is deeply in love with the idea of her, while blissfully unaware that the reality of her is a complete mystery to him.
Then Mathilde gets to have her say…
I adored Mathilde. I’m not sure I was supposed to like Mathilde, but she was honestly the highlight of the novel for me. She is burning with anger and resentment. Which is not to say that she doesn’t love Lotto, but she is realistic about his flaws and cognizant of how little he really understands her. Mathilde had me thinking of Gillian Flynn protagonists, (think somewhat less Gone Girl and more Sharp Objects and Dark Places) with a dark past and righteous anger.
They had been married for seventeen years; she lived in the deepest room in his heart. And sometimes that meant that wife occurred to him before Mathilde, helpmeet before herself. Abstraction of her before the visceral being.
I had reservations about this novel early on; getting through the first half was definitely worth the payoff, in my opinion. Looking at other reviews of this novel, they are extremely mixed with very few people seeming to fall in the middle; you will adore this book or else you probably won’t finish it. Either way, it’s certainly an experience.
Thank you for reading! How do unlikable protagonists impact your experience with a book? Do you need to like the protagonist in order to enjoy the book?