Tuesday, October 13, 2015
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. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart. -- Riverhead
At this year's BEA, one of the books that I couldn't help but be excited for was FATES AND FURIES by Lauren Groff. It seems like Ms. Groff has been writing one great book after another, but FATES AND FURIES sounded like something special. This novel explores marriage in an incredibly unique way, and I have to say that this book is amazing... from the the story, to the characters, to the writing!
FATES AND FURIES tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde, a couple who had a larger-than-life marriage for almost 24 years. The book begins with Lotto's side of the story -- FATES -- and ends with Mathilde's story -- FURIES. In Lotto's story, we see the failed actor who eventually finds his success as a playwright. His story explores his childhood and odd relationship with his mother, as well as his teen and young adult years. However, his story really blossoms after meeting and quickly marrying the beautiful Mathilde. In Mathilde's story, we see her version of events, secrets and all, which show a much darker side of her character and their marriage.
I absolutely loved this novel. It is incredibly well-written and so insightful into marriage and people, and I couldn't put it down. I found Ms. Groff's decision to write the novel in two entirely separate sections to be brilliant, and I thought her prose and dialogue were just about perfect. I am pretty sure that I don't have the words to express just much an accomplishment FATES AND FURIES is.
Rarely do I finish a book and want to start it all over again, but that's exactly what happened with FATES AND FURIES. It's one of those books that you could read again and again, and I think I would find something new each and every time I read it. In addition, I think Ms. Groff's writing is so smart that there is no way I picked up on everything. It's that good and that intelligent!
There are so many amazing things about FATES AND FURIES that I feel as if I'm doing an injustice but mentioning only a few. (Just consider this review a tease!) However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention how strong both Lotto and Mathilde's characters were. Ms. Groff created two larger-than-life characters whose relationship with each other was fascinating. I found her portrayal of Lotto as a struggling actor and a man bordering on the brink of depression and self-pity to be spot on, but I think I was even more impressed with her portrayal of Mathilde. Mathilde appeared to be the doting and supportive wife for much of their marriage, but in actuality, she was a bit of a mess underneath the surface.
Another aspect of this story that I loved was how it explored marriage. I've mentioned that Lotto and Mathilde had a marriage that seemed perfect. Friends admired their passion and love for each other, but they didn't know the entire story. (Heck, Lotto didn't even know the entire story!) I felt as if I truly got to know these individuals by the end of the story, and I found it fascinating that they could be as close as they were for 24 years and still have so many secrets between them. I think their relationship says a lot about marriage in general -- that despite the union, there are still two separate individuals who have very different feelings and possibly living very different lives.
And finally, I appreciated that Ms. Groff included so many of Lotto's scripts into the story. Initially, I wondered why she did this because I wasn't always all that interested in his writings; but then I saw the wisdom in this. In many ways, Lotto and Mathilde's marriage seemed like a Greek tragedy; and Lotto's plays often times seemed to mirror their lives. It was a very unusual way to give insight into Lotto's character but one that totally fit with the novel.
FATES AND FURIES would make an excellent book club pick. In fact, after I finished reading this novel, I was dying to discuss it with anyone and everyone. That's always a sign of a great book as far as I'm concerned. There is a reading guide available with eight thought-provoking questions that are related to the characters, their actions, and the author's writing style. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, honesty, secrets, perceptions vs. reality, parent/child relationships, regrets, deception, and art. In addition, you could discuss why the author chose to write the book in two very distinct sections as well as whether you appreciated the inclusion of Lotto's scripts.
Quite honestly, I was blown away by FATES AND FURIES. Lauren Groff is quite possibly one of the most talented authors out there right now, and it's going to be difficult over the next few months to find another book I appreciated as much as this one!
I received a copy of this novel at the 2015 BEA.