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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies (2015)

by Lauren Groff

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Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
If I’d read this book in junior high or high school, I would have given it five stars without hesitation because I would have believed every word.

Now... nah. I couldn’t believe in Lancelot and Mahilde. At first I didn’t like them, then I just enjoyed reading their story. Yes, it’s interesting to see behind the scenes of a marriage and to see what props it up. But no, I didn’t care what happened to them. At least most of the other characters actually acted like real people. The revelations in the second half of the book were entertaining and sort of satisfying, even if they felt false.

Back then I would have been so in awe of Mathilde. I’d have been in love with her ability to hold a grudge, her talent for revenge, her patience. Her ability to reinvent herself, her skill at making them pay. Now, I feel that’s a tired trope: I’ll get rich and I’ll show you! I’ll show all of you! Now I feel it’s more likely that people change, get over things. They forget, they find other outlets for their energies.

So many scenes of people having sex standing up. So many peple having sex at parties, in bathrooms - and I thought I went to wild parties but I guess not. So many lesbians, so few gay men except a bad one. That’s kind of odd. And how come we didn’t find out the two Delmars were related? Were they?

I hated the lush, wordy writing. I know there were allusions to Shakespeare and to the classics. I understood some of the former, missed the latter because I didn’t have that kind of education. So it goes. ( )
  piemouth | May 17, 2017 |
[Fates and Furies], author Lauren Groff's third book, published in 2015, presents two views of a singular, successful, blessed 24-year marriage. The initial view is from the husband's perspective, he being Lancelot "Lotto" Satterwhite, the gifted—smart, tall, attractive, charming, theatrical—scion of a wealthy Florida family. The second half of the book (roughly) reveals how the wife, Mathilde, a strikingly tall, slim blonde perceives the marriage. She has the last word.

In the first half, the story seems lackluster. All the turmoil of family—and his own—dysfunction doesn't derail him; it sails past on a parallel track. The buffeting is all around him, but it barely musses his hair.

After his father, Gawain, dies unexpectedly, Lotto begins hanging with a few friends that his mother, Antoinette, reviles. She banishes him to an all-boy New England prep school, from which he moves on to Vassar. There he beds every willing female, and practically all of them are willing. Two weeks before graduation, he meets and surrenders unconditionally to Mathilde Yoder, committing to celibacy before marriage and absolute fidelity thereafter. A day or so before graduation, they marry; a day or two after graduation, Lotto's muvva, as he calls her, enraged, disinherits him.

In college, he was a star, but in NYC, he can't get past an audition. To forestall starvation, eviction, and other unpleasantnesses, Mathilde works. She also accepts generous cash gifts from Lotto's sister Rachel and his Aunt Sallie. Having flunked his acting test, Lotto turns to playwriting and scores success after success. His fans adore him, his wife indulges him. Lots of hot sex 'twixt husband and wife. A place in the city, a place in the country. Wine, champagne, hard liquor. But no children.

As Mathilde moves into the spotlight, we get a quite different picture of her. And of Lotto. The story begins to shine, the pages to turn effortlessly. We read of Mathilde's childhood in France, her banishment to the care of an unsavory, remote uncle in the U.S., and her seamy relationship with an older man that pays for her Vassar education. Yes, she indulges Lotto, but she's also determined to make him a success. She speaks no lies to him, but she's not above withholding truth from him. He is her one and only. And she's to be crossed only at peril.

It's my understanding that the story has many references to the classics, all of which are lost on me. Well, too bad; I don't know what I am missing.

Barack Obama spoke of Fates and Furies as his favorite novel of 2015. It is very good; it gets my thumbs standing tall. But not my favorite.
  weird_O | May 2, 2017 |
Lauren Groff’s FATES AND FURIES tells the story of a marriage as if it were a fable. The story has elements one might expect—love, support, struggle, success, and failure. But it also has multiple Shakespearean touches that make it unusual and more interesting—revenge, murder, suicide, homoeroticism, incest, abandonment, deceit, and disillusionment.

Using dual narratives, one by the man and the other by the woman, Groff explores common marital themes, including changes in the relationship over time, the intensity the feelings, how the partners experience events differently, role playing, and the things each brings to the relationship. Her characterizations of the two Satterwhites, Lancelot (Lotto) and Mathilde, give the novel its most interesting flavor.

Groff introduces Lotto in the first half (“Fates”). He comes from wealth and position in a small southern town. Indeed his name and that of his father, Gawain, suggest all the “happy ever-aftering that was known as Camelot.” His family believes that Lotto is fated for greatness and this is not lost on him. Despite some rough patches in adolescence, he goes north for college and begins to see himself as some type of matinee idol. He marries the mysterious Mathilde right out of college and immediately is disowned by his witchy widowed mother, Antoinette (“let them eat cake”), who sees the match as unworthy of her son. Poverty, failure and struggle ensue, with Mathilde doing most of the heavy lifting, until she convinces Lotto that he is indeed fated for greatness, not as an actor, but instead as a playwright. Success follows. Groff portrays Lotto as a bit of a pretty boy, who is long on looks and short on self-perception. The summaries of his plays Groff includes in her narrative suggest a modest talent, but certainly not Shakespearean. Certainly one hated reviewer seemed to see his shortcomings clearly enough. Without Mathilde’s wifely nurturing (and strategic editing), one wonders what would have become of Lotto. As a standalone, this part of the novel would have made a pretty bland story.

The second half is Mathilde’s story, and what a strange and surprising one it is. “Furies” is the title of this section and that tells it all. Mathilde, originally Aurélie, grew up in France under modest circumstances. Following the death of her brother (did she do it?) she is abandoned by her family. She spends time with a cold grandmother in Paris and a mean old uncle in Pennsylvania, before attending Vassar with all expenses paid by wealthy New York art dealer. (One needs to read the book to fully appreciate the nature of that relationship.) Suffice it to say that almost nothing about Mathilde is as one would expect from reading Lotto’s section. She is indeed a “Fury” bent on revenge and retribution for slights to her beloved Lotto. Mathilde’s narrative serves as a counterpoint to Lotto’s. While his is somewhat bland, hers crackles with strangeness and excitement. Unfortunately, much of it seems “over the top” and even cartoonish. Can one really believe the female detective Mathilde hires to wreck the life of Lotto’s former friend?

Groff’s writing is generally excellent, with lyrical passages and descriptions. The plot is engaging. However, she risks losing readers with the slow and melodramatic development of the first section and the utter strangeness of the second. The multiplicity of themes and literary references can generate book group discussions, but can be unnecessary distractions. ( )
  ozzer | Mar 24, 2017 |
Fates and Furies is the portrait of a marriage. The first half, Fates, is about Lotto, the narcissistic playwright who is married to Mathilda. They meet at the end of college and marry two weeks later. Mathilde lovingly supports Lotto while he struggles with his acting career. She remains a devoted wife after gives up on acting and becomes a supremely successful playwright. However, because of his extreme self-centeredness, he actually knows little about her other than the fact that, in his words, she is a saint. Lotto’s section is a little slow and he is not that likeable, although at times he was so pathetic that I did feel sorry for him. I considered abandoning this book a couple of times.

The second half of the novel, Furies, is Mathilde’s story. It begins in her childhood and continues throughout her entire marriage to Lotto, replaying its key moments from her perspective. We learn that Mathilde is not who Lotto thought she was. At all. I am so glad that I kept reading. It reminded me of Gone Girl, in that while reading the first part, I was thinking, sure this is okay but what is everyone making such a fuss about? And then BAM, the story takes a turn that leaves your head spinning. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on this book. The second half made it totally worth it.

Since this book got off to a slow start, I didn’t read very carefully in the beginning. Upon finishing the book, I wish I had and I’m tempted to go back and re-read Lotto’s story since so much of Mathilde’s story is Lotto’s story turned upside down.

(Side note: President Obama named this book as his favorite of 2015. I have to mention that I was kind of surprised that he named this book as his favorite because there is fair amount of sex in it and some of it is on the strange side. It isn’t super graphic but it is descriptive. I’m not saying that I think Obama should be a prude. I’m proud of him from not shying away from putting this book on his public favorites list and not worrying that his detractors would call him perverted or something.)

Fate and Furies is any examination of one marriage that raises the question for any marriage: Can you ever really know your partner? I think it would make a great book club selection to discuss this question further. Thanks for recommending this book Obama! ( )
  mcelhra | Mar 24, 2017 |
I started this book believing that I would not finish it and would not like it. That almost turned out to be the case, and yet I felt oddly compelled to keep going. The style of writing is difficult to wrap your head around at times. If you can manage to slog your way through the first 200 pages, which is Lotto's story - "Fates", you will be rewarded when you read Mathilde's story - "Furies." Sometimes what appears to be a superlative marriage to all that observe it can turn out to be, under the surface, totally unexpected and shocking. ( )
1 vote flourgirl49 | Mar 20, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
‘Fates and Furies,’’ Lauren Groff’s pyrotechnic new novel, tells the story of a marriage and of marriage writ large. It is also an exploration of character — good, evil, flat, round, genetic, forged by circumstance, all of the above — and a wild play upon literary history. Groff grafts the contemporary fiction of suburban anomie and New York manners onto künstlerroman, myth, and epic in a dazzling fusion of classic and (post)modern, tragedy and comedy.
Lauren Groff is a writer of rare gifts, and “Fates and Furies” is an unabashedly ambitious novel that delivers — with comedy, tragedy, well-deployed erudition and unmistakable glimmers of brilliance throughout.
The novel tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde Satterwhite. He is the darling of a prosperous Florida family – “Lotto was special. Golden”. She, an apparent “ice princess”, is the survivor of a past about which her husband has only the fuzziest idea beyond it being “sad and dark”, and above all “blank behind her”. The first half of the book offers Lotto’s view of their life together as he rises from charming but failed actor to celebrated playwright, thanks in no small part to Mathilde’s editorial finesse. The second half reveals that Mathilde has, through implacable willpower, transcended circumstances that read like a hotchpotch of Greek tragedy, fable and detective novel. Much of what Lotto takes for granted in his good fortune, it turns out, is due to Mathilde’s ruthless machination, right down to their marriage itself. She genuinely loves him, but she initially set out to win him for mercenary reasons.
Lotto’s story is fairly plausible, a life that might transpire in the world the rest of us inhabit; Mathilde’s story contains more outlandishly fictional twists than those of David Copperfield, The Goldfinch’s Theo Decker, and Becky Sharp combined.
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A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain's sudden sweeping.
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In her sleep her eyelids were so translucent that he always thought if he looked hard, he could see her dreams pulsing like jellyfish across her brain.
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