Monday, March 27, 2017

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies explores and tries to explain the marriage of Lotto (Lancelot) and Mathilde. The novel is told from two perspectives his (Fates) and hers (Furies). As can be expected in many situations the perspectives are totally at odds with each other. The novel spent the better part of a year (2015-2016) at the top of the NYT Best Sellers List. It was proclaimed the most favorite book of President Obama in 2015.

Lotto's story is first. He is the product of a very wealthy Floridian couple who comes across as privileged, vain, and a more than confident. His father dies very suddenly and he and his sister Rachel are raised by his mother, Antoinette and his Aunt Sally. During his high school years he dabbled in drugs with his friend Chollie and Chollie's twin sister Gwennie. Sent away to a prep school he is separated from that life. He meets Mathilde at Vassar and the two marry right before their graduation. The remainder of the Fates section details that relationship as they struggle to make ends meet while Lotto struggles with his career as a playwright. Mathilde does everything in her power to help him and support him.

Mathilde's story is told in the Furies section. The reader learns that her name is really Aurelie and that she was born in France. After a tragic accident, she is sent to live with a grandmother and then an uncle. Although well provided for, she is virtually on her own in a large mansion. The chauffeur is her only friend and as she leaves high school she strikes out on her own. In order to pay her tuition, she enters into a "money for sex" masochistic relationship with Ariel, a NYC art dealer. She is a survivor and a conniver, for sure. The reader also learns of Mathilde's relationship with Antoinette and Chollie. All is not is as it seemed. 
Lauren Groff signing my copy of Fates and Furies

Central to the novel is the theme of marriage and the secrets that it inevitably hides. I really believe that Lotto and Mathilde loved each other. It is a passionate relationship, but one filled with anxiety. Groff's strength is in her character development. She switches narrators but keeps their voices clearly distinct. The crafting of sentences is amazing and, again, distinctively different in each part of the novel. With all that said and with all the glowing reviews, and a period of reflection since I finished the book, I am still vacillating between liking it and not. From reading reviews, readers either hate it or love it. I guess I just didn't have those strong feelings either way. Each reader needs to judge for him or herself.