Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
They meet in the final months of college, and by graduation, they have married. It’s 1991. At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. There are lean, romantic years that follow: potluck parties in a Manhattan basement apartment; a wilting acting career that doesn’t pay the bills; a household that seems to run on good luck and good sex. A decade or so later, though, Lotto and Mathilde are on their way. He is a world-famous playwright, she is integral to his success. Their life and marriage are the envy of friends, the very definition of a successful partnership.
It is with an electric thrill, then, that the reader realizes things are even more remarkable than they have seemed. In an emotionally complicated twist, the perspective shifts, and what began as a story about one extraordinary union becomes so much more. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, in prose vibrant and original, Fates and Furies is a profoundly moving, surprising, and provocative novel about the yoke joining love, art, and power, and about the influence of perception. Exquisitely imagined, it is a book that defies expectation, stirring both the mind and the heart.
I loved this book from the first chapter. I finished it a few weeks ago and postponed writing about it because I was so wrapped up in the experience of reading it and so unsure I’d be able to put into words what I loved about it. And I’m still not sure I can, but here goes nothing.
One of my favorite things about reading is that there are so many books out there – there is truly something for everyone. As my closest friends know, I’m hesitant to recommend books I love to people if I’m not sure they will like them because I pride myself on giving thoughtful recommendations based on previous preferences and because I don’t want a negative response to ruin my relationship with a book. I do not think Fates and Furies is the right novel for everyone. But for me, it was perfect.
Groff writes incredibly convincingly in two distinct styles of prose, each suited to the character who has control of the narrative at the time. Her overly extravagant prose employed in the first half of this book is how Lotto experiences the world. The less effusive style of the second half is true to Mathilde. Groff buries herself into how her characters think and allows it to influence not just the content of the writing but also the form. I didn’t love either half more than the other because they both felt so honest to me.
I love a story where the woman is smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for, even (or especially) her husband. The chance to go into Mathilde’s point of view is the chance to see just how much of their world is the way it is because she made it so.
I respect a book that shows you a marriage that looks perfect to all those who interact with it peripherally but then takes you inside to show you not just the cracks but the cement that’s been poured to fill them. And I love stories set in New York and that invoke theater as an art form.
This book will remain on my favorites shelf for years to come.
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