& Review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Fiction. Publisher: Riverhead Books September 2015

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Fiction. Publisher: Riverhead Books September 2015

The Book Itself: Are those feathers? Waves? I suppose it’s a cool design, and the title is simple and graphic.

My ReviewEvery 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.

This is finally the last book I read in 2015! I don’t necessarily post my reviews in the order I read things – Red Seas Under Red Skies , which I read in December, had to be posted right away because I featured it in my Best Books of 2015. Whereas Menagerie, read in October/November, is just now getting posted this month. So I’m not that behind, really. But I am behind.

Anyway.

I had been in fantasy world for a while before I got to Fates and Furies, a book that I had heard so much in magazines and articles that I felt like I kind of had to pick it up. Barack Obama selected this as his favorite book of 2015, so hello big deal fiction right here.

And just so you know, Lotto and Mathilde aren’t all that likeable. The book starts off with Lotto, a rich boy born to rich parents who disown him when he meets and marries Mathilde soon after. He is sullen, spoiled and pouty, and totally wrapped up in either only himself, or just him and Mathilde as they appear to other people. Mathilde narrates the second half of the book, revealing more of her character and the things Lotto didn’t know (which could probably fill up another book). If you only read Lotto’s section, you think Mathilde is an untouchable goddess, practically perfect in every way, beautiful and effortless and above reproach. You find out she’s actually kind of a bitch when it gets to her perspective.

This is the story of a marriage between two bad people, prettied up with flowering prose.

And it tries very hard to be prose poetry in book form. This seems strained when you read things like Lotto, clean as camphor at his neck and belly, like electrified pennies at the armpit, like chlorine at the groin” and “Spin of bottles and flip-flops and zip ties and packing peanuts and boas and baby-doll heads and false eyelashes and inflatable taxidermy.” This book tries way. Too. Hard. The entire way. A few strange sights or elaborate metaphors would have been much more impactful if they were few and far between. As it is, we have a moody/vain actor-turned-writer who churns out a miraculous play every year, whose wife is the perfect Stepford-model partner who polishes his plays to sparkling diamonds and never lets this shiny veneer crack until it’s her turn to speak. I don’t like them (they call any woman who has children “breeders,” even Lotto, who begs for a child nearly the entire story, saying a woman who had a child has a “soft, breeder’s belly,” which I just find really rude), and I got tired of the poetry.

What is it trying to do in regards to marriage is interesting. Gone Girl did this to the extreme: painting the picture of two people who have fallen in love and married, and then slowly exposing their horrible, terrible, sadistic sides. Fates and Furies does that on a much tamer level, although these married folks are just petty and shallow. Gone Girl’s were just psychopaths, the both of them. Both Lotto and Mathilde have secret selves, that even though they have this deep, passionate love, they do not share with each other. They are two different people, and we only see that when we get Mathilde’s perspective – she is much more complex than the mostly-perfect-goddess Lotto paints her to be. I did like this slow unveil of each character, and filling in the gaps of knowledge I had about events in the story once we got both sides to the coin. But that wasn’t enough to make me like either of them.

Plus, the sex scenes are unattractive (not that sex is always attractive) and at times, obscene. Not my favorite book.

My Grade: C-

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