Day 858: Fates and Furies

Cover for Fates and FuriesFates and Furies is about a marriage. Lotto and Mathilde marry shortly before graduating from college, after knowing each other only two weeks. They are both very tall and blonde, considered by many to be a golden couple. Lotto is charismatic and loud, always the center of attention, with many faithful friends. Mathilde is quiet and aloof.

Although Lotto has had a bit of a Southern Gothic upbringing, he is the son of wealth and privilege. However, his mother cuts him off when she hears of his marriage. Mathilde appears to have no family or money. So, the couple’s first years are tough, as Lotto tries to make it as an actor in New York while Mathilde supports them. But one night Lotto stays up drunk and writes a play. When Mathilde reads it, she knows he has found his vocation.

The first half of the novel is from Lotto’s point of view. Success seems to come easily to him after he writes his first play. Even though he is prone to depression if things don’t go well, he has hit after hit. Mathilde quits her job to take care of the business side, and he becomes a little self-satisfied. Still, all in all they are remarkably happy. He considers his wife a saint.

It is not until the second half of the novel, when we see the marriage and past from Mathilde’s point of view, that we learn a different truth about their lives. Mathilde, who has been alone for much of her life, is fiercely loyal to Lotto. But she is no saint.

Lauren Groff seems to write completely different novels each time out. This one shows the complexities of human relationships. That this relationship is almost operatic in scope gives the novel a slightly gothic trend.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. I think we are supposed to like Lotto more than I did, but I distrust charismatic people. I think Lotto may be a little stereotypical, however, while Mathilde is mostly a cypher until her half of the book, when many secrets come out. It is not until we learn Mathilde’s side of things that the novel really begins to unfold. It is certainly an interesting novel and one that could provoke discussion.

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19 thoughts on “Day 858: Fates and Furies

  1. Cathy746books March 1, 2016 / 1:15 pm

    Having just read (and enjoyed) Arcadia, this interests me. Her prose is so beautiful.

    • whatmeread March 1, 2016 / 1:18 pm

      I think the book by Groff that I liked best so far is The Monsters of Templeton, but it’s been a long time since I read it. Perhaps I would feel differently now.

  2. Claire 'Word by Word' March 1, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    I have Delicate Edible Birds on my shelf to read, and also Arcadia, I want to go back before this novel, and see where it all starts.

  3. A Little Blog of Books March 1, 2016 / 2:21 pm

    This book seems to really divide people – it makes me want to read it more to find out who I agree with!

    • whatmeread March 1, 2016 / 2:23 pm

      I didn’t feel that it really got going until the second half, but then it’s very interesting.

      • carolebesharah February 1, 2018 / 5:28 pm

        I was really digging the book, and then the second part happened. Ha! We are divided indeed!

      • whatmeread February 1, 2018 / 5:51 pm

        I thought that was when it got interesting.

  4. Naomi March 2, 2016 / 6:19 am

    I’ve been curious to see what you thought of this book, There have been so many different reactions. Which, I think, is the best reason to read the book!
    I agree with your assessment of Lotto – I didn’t like him much either. Mathilde is definitely more interesting.

    • whatmeread March 2, 2016 / 9:54 am

      I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to think of him.

      • Carolyn O March 7, 2016 / 11:15 am

        I think the first half of the book is almost performative, in a way–she’s writing the kind of novel that we’re used to reading, with a charismatic male protagonist we’re supposed to like. And then she turns that trope on its head.

      • whatmeread March 7, 2016 / 11:18 am

        Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that, but I think you’re right. I didn’t like him, though.

      • Carolyn O March 7, 2016 / 12:22 pm

        That’s because you have discerning taste.

      • carolebesharah February 1, 2018 / 5:30 pm

        Hmmm… but the story unveiled in the second half just wasn’t believable.

      • whatmeread February 1, 2018 / 5:50 pm

        I don’t remember being that skeptical, but it’s been a long time since I read it.

  5. Ariel Bartlett April 4, 2016 / 10:48 pm

    Ok, I want to read this now! Would you say it’s better than The Happy Marriage?

  6. Laura Finazzo July 23, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    I completely agree that all of Groff’s books are so different from one another! And still, I’ve enjoyed them all. I felt similarly to you that I wasn’t sure if I liked or could really trust the characters in this one, I just don’t think I was truly able to recognize it until reading your review. Thanks for shedding some light on this one for me. Looking forward to reading more of your reviews!

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