Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Book Review: "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff
"Storytelling is a landscape, and tragedy is comedy is drama. It simply depends on how you frame what you're seeing."
Do we ever really know the person we're in a relationship with? What about the person we're married to?
Lauren Groff's dense, thought-provoking, occasionally meandering new book, Fates and Furies, is a weighty exploration of a 20+-year marriage between Lotto (Lancelot) and Mathilde. The two meet at the end of their senior year of college at Vassar and fall instantly in loveand lustwith each other. Both tall, confident, exuding charisma, they are the couple everyone wants to be, and be near.
Lotto was once a child of privilege, the heir to a fortune, only to have it all taken away by his manipulative, agoraphobic mother. He runs on the fuel of adoration and popularity, but once his acting career doesn't materialize, he falls into a depression until he discovers his true talent, writing plays. Mathilde is his muse, his inspiration, his business manager, the person who keeps their lives running as Lotto flickers in and out of the creative process. But why is she willing to put up with Lotto's mercurial nature, his desperate need to be adored, his feelings of abandonment from his family?
Fates and Furies tells Lotto's story first, seeing the marriage from his vantage point, and then switches halfway through to tell Mathilde's story, which provides an intriguing, complex perspective on incidents we've already seen. There are a lot of twists and turns in this book, some surprising, some not so surprising, and these are fascinating, flawed characters. (At times Lotto felt to me like a character from a Pat Conroy novel, not that that's a bad thing.)
I'm a huge fan of Lauren Groff, and her storytelling ability and her use of language is sensational. At times I marveled over her words but at times her prose was so weighty, so laden with metaphors and references to Greek mythology and Shakespeare that I found myself a little lost. (The last segment of Lotto's section was particularly confusing, as I couldn't figure out what was a dream and what was reality.) But in the end, this is a fascinating and compelling book, an intriguing character study, and I can't get it out of my mind.