Fates and Furies is a novel that begs for discussion; that makes me wish I were back in college writing comparative essays; that makes me want to reread Sophocles, Aristophanes, Aeschylus. Mixing both Greek comedy and tragedy, Groff creates a villainous Mathilde reminiscent of Ron Rash’s Serena and Kathy of East of Eden.
I was warned before I started Fates and Furies to give it time. One of my best reading buds and literary soul-mates said it would take at least 100 pages before I was hooked. I appreciate the warning, but for me it was even more than that.
The novel is divided into two parts – his and hers. Lotto’s lays out the narrative of their relationship, their seemingly happy marriage – that is not without its strains. But it is pretty boring. Except that there is sex – a lot of sex. Not overly graphic sex scenes, just a marriage that feels based on sex.
But then you get to her story.
And, oh. m. gee.
There are holes filled that you didn’t know existed. Lotto and Mathilde meet in college, and while they know of each other, have little interaction until a whirlwind romance just before graduation that ends with a quick elopement. He’s an actor turned playwright. She’s a model and art gallery assistant turned homemaker cook and entertainer extraordinaire. Their friends bet the marriage won’t last, but it does. Spanning a couple of decades, Groff knits the sordid histories of both husband and wife into a nest that is a haven for both.
My largest criticism of Groff is that she waited too long to let the reader know what she was up to. She could have achieved the same outcome by allowing the alternating POV throughout instead of in just two blocks. Perhaps there wouldn’t have been the shock value she achieved her way, but I know there are many, many readers out there who will put this down before they get to the good stuff.
And once it gets good, it is impossible to put down.
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