I wish I'd never read Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies...so I'd have another chance to experience it for the first time. To be honest, I picked it out at the library because the cover looked interesting, so I had pretty low expectations. Little did I know, I would continue to think about the story months after I finished reading it.
A short synopsis: Over the course of their relationship, Lotto and Mathilde are the beautiful, somewhat unconventional, and on-the-route-to-success couple that everyone knows, loves and envies. But apparently, there are three sides to every story: the one that's seen by their friends, Lotto's, and Mathilde's. Every relationship has secrets, but Lotto and Mathilde excel at sharing selective parts of their lives and you soon realize that the "perfect couple" doesn't know each other at all.
As a lover of contemporary adult fiction, I appreciate the slight element of thrill in Fates and Furies. The Husband's Secret meets Gone Girl, describes the parts of the story that I love and what kept me going through the more draining chapters. The element of domesticity and a mundane life is heavy, but Lotto and Mathilde's secrets are serious and profound enough to make you question their sanity and stability.
Broken into two parts, Fates and Furies tells both Lotto's perspective and Mathilde's. As I mentioned, I knew nothing about the book when I started it. I hadn't even looked at the table of contents, so when Lotto's story died down near the middle of the book I felt bored and thought about giving up. Mathilde's perspective brought new life and rejuvenated the story, nevermind that she is much more mysterious and interesting than her husband. One of my favorite quotes from the book comes from Mathilde's half and describes the difference between her and Lotto perfectly, "What she did not tell him balanced neatly with what she did. Still, there are untruths made of words and untruths made of silences, and Mathilde had only ever lied to Lotto in what she never said."
Each sentence in Fates and Furies feels incredibly smart and deliberate, thanks to Lauren Groff's special style of writing. When I read the book I felt like each word had been handpicked for a certain effect. There are so many phrases, like the one I quoted above, that make you think about life and reality outside of the story. Another one of my favorites says, "Hurricanes of entitlement, all swirl and noise and destruction, nothing at their centers." Though the writing reads as poetry, the narrative often feels "pretentious and overwritten," to quote Emily, a reviewer on Goodreads. This wasn't an oversight of Groff's, but a technique used to represent who Lotto and Mathilde are. The text feels pretentious, complex, and forced because Lotto and Mathilde are, not only in their relationship but as characters. They're enigmatic and they try too hard in ways that make them inconceivable as real people. Fates and Furies has faults, but the writing is not one of them.
The biggest problem in the book is the density. There's very little in Fates and Furies that is unimportant, which you won't realize until later on when a minor character returns and becomes integral to the story. The density also made it hard to get through, especially Lotto's half which is full of his entire plays that have little to no effect on the plot. While Lotto is the second most important character, if I lost 50-100 pages and moved more quickly to Mathilde's half, I'd be significantly more pleased with the book.
Marriage and its complexities serve as the primary theme of Fates and Furies and cause the biggest complaints about the story. People say that the book is antimarriage because it doesn't present Lotto and Mathilde's marriage in an appealing or positive way. They fail to realize that Groff largely blames secrecy and the faults of the characters rather than the institution of marriage itself. The underlying and less explicit theme of the story is whether you can truly know someone, and according to Groff, the answer is no.
Fates and Furies ended up as one of my favorite books I read in 2017. It emphasizes that we never know as much as we think we do and life is almost never what it seems. If you are easily frustrated or bored, I wouldn't suggest Fates and Furies. But if you have the time and patience to sit down and let Lauren Groff take you on an extremely shocking and slightly emotional ride, I highly recommend it. xx, Lauren