Written by—Lauren Groff
Publisher—Penguin Random House
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Lancelot and Mathilde meet at the close of college, locking eyes across a room at a wild party. He is the handsome and popular thespian star, destined to soar to great heights; she is a strikingly beautiful recluse, an anomaly to everyone around her.
Two weeks later, they are married.
Fates and Furies is the story of that marriage, told from both sides. Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite is a failed actor turned famous playwright. Haunted by the loss of his father as a child and unable to shake the hold of his domineering mother, Fates tells of his failure and triumph, and of the insecurity of genius. Mathilde is there at every turn, quietly pulling the strings along the road to her husband’s success, but as a character she is shadowed by his brilliance. It’s not until the Furies portion of the novel that her history is revealed, and we learn the secrets she’s been keeping.
Groff’s prose is lyrical and evocative, but chasing so many strands of metaphor that at times it can be hard to follow. While her characters are richly layered, there is nothing too likable about them. Lotto and Mathilde are surrounded by duplicitous friends who perhaps represent Groff’s dislike for the two-faced people of the art world. These characters are offered a counterbalance, however, by Lotto’s aunt Sallie and his sister Rachel, who pop up throughout the story with a refreshing charity and kindness.
There is a soap-opera quality to the novel, and combined with Groff’s style produces an incredibility that is hard to ignore. Would anybody really behave the way these characters do? It seems unlikely, and yet the dramatic twists provide compelling reading, if you can suspend your disbelief.