“Great swaths of her life were white space to her husband. 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.” (Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff)
My policy of ‘just say no to bestsellers’ kept me away from this book until I read this review from the NYT. A book told in two parts? I imagined unreliable narrators, characters recreated in the last few pages, a need to completely re-write the book in my head (like Sweet Tooth, or Confederacy of Dunces). While the first few chapters stunned me with the freshness of the writing, the book as a whole didn’t add up to anything meaningful. All of Groff’s literary contortions keep the reader in suspense, but rarely add depth or insight.
Though Fates and Furies wants to portray itself an honest account of a marriage, it ends up being more a story of two lives, the intersection of which is muddy at best. While Groff portrays the characters of the husband and wife deeply, she glosses over their interactions and shared lives. They both hide themselves from the other and are revealed only to the reader, only on the page. One gets the sense of not a ‘great love’, as it is often called, but instead of a great separation, where the romance plays out only in their minds.
Buy – Borrow Now – Borrow Sometime – Avoid
Ending: The wife’s reflections on the marriage at the end of her life
Incidental Learning: New York, Play writing
Further Reading: This book reminded me of The Marriage Plot. Brilliant writing, brilliant beginning, but at the end, not amounting to much.