Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff. Book report #12 (2023)

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff. Pub 2015

The impetus for this book was twofold – my fellow book-clubber’s excellent review of Groff’s Matrix last year, and the title’s suggestion of a linkage to Greek mythology. I’m a fan of the retellings of mythology (see Circe and The Children of Jocasta), so I was anticipating some element of that in this novel. I was not disappointed with either the author or the mythology. I will do my best to avoid spoilers here.

The novel tells of the lives and marriage of Lotto and Mathilde. They meet in college, marry young, and have a tumultuous and successful life in the arts in New York. The first half of the novel is primarily Lotto’s story. He is the golden boy, destined for greatness and happiness. His life is not without struggle and tragedy, but ultimate the fates smile on him and he emerges triumphant from most of his trials. Things just seem to work out for him. The second half of the book is Mathilde’s story, and here we see the furies come to the fore. Both Mathilde and Lotto’s “muvva”, Antoinette, apply their separate furies to each other and to the world, and are thus the architects of much of Lotto’s “fate”. At the highest level, the story reveals that there is no fate that is not the result of the manipulation of others (in other words, explainable through the mundane actions of other people). Also, that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned (there is a strong undercurrent of Shakespeare throughout the novel).

The writing is excellent, and the plot twists and reveals are very well done, with some gasp-out-loud moments when the reader gets glimpses behind the curtain. The Lotto/fates section is a better than the Mathilde/furies section is, which is surprising given the dramatic potential of all those reveals. There is sense that the furies are almost too furious (even farcical) in places, and the chaos of so many competing plot lines gets away from the author sometimes, especially at the end which feels a bit rushed and incomplete. Notwithstanding that, it is an excellent story, with elements that keep the reader guessing and wondering.

Fate: on its way to another reader already.

1 – a book with a murder
8 – a female author
25 – a new author to me

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