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Fates and Furies

5 stars
29,329 (21%)
4 stars
47,215 (35%)
3 stars
36,479 (27%)
2 stars
14,997 (11%)
1 star
6,350 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,428 reviews
Profile Image for Emily.
706 reviews2,042 followers
February 10, 2017
This book was a HUGE disappointment. I mean, holy purple prose, Batman! I really loved Lauren Groff’s writing in Arcadia - it was beautiful and touching, with gorgeous metaphors. But Fates and Furies is pretentious and overwritten. It tries so hard to be a literary masterpiece that you end up with asides like this one:

Her mother had smelled of cold and scales, her father of stone dust and dog. She imagined her husband’s mother, whom she had never met, had a whiff of rotting apples, although her stationery had stunk of baby powder and rose perfume. Sallie was starch, cedar. Her dead grandmother, sandalwood. Her uncle, Swiss cheese. People told her she smiled like garlic, like chalk, like nothing at all. Lotto, clean as camphor at his neck and belly, like electrified pennies at the armpit, like chlorine at the groin.

If you like convoluted metaphors and improbable life stories, you will enjoy this book. If you like reading descriptions of fictional avant-garde plays that add modernist touches to ancient stories (think Antigone transformed into “Go”), you will enjoy this book. But most importantly, if you like the grotesque, you will enjoy this book. The entire thing is a bizarre parody of what two people’s life stories could actually be like, and the fantastical, absurd elements are what really stand out.

The narrative constantly asks us: what is given up by each party in a relationship? What is worth giving up for a marriage, and how can two people stay together? There were a few poignant scenes where I really felt like Groff had captured this for Lotto and Mathilde, and I actually felt invested in their relationship:

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.

But even that fell apart for me given how ridiculous I found most of the book. Serious “plot” spoilers behind tags: I probably should have stopped reading this in the first hundred pages, when . Or when I realized that Chollie (god) was a character who was actually going to stick around for awhile. Or when I got to Mathilde’s half of the book, which is supposed to humanize her and round out the narrative, when really it just had me raising my eyebrows for a solid 200 pages.

The implication that married couples have secrets from each other is a sensible one; the idea that . And something about Mathilde’s self-sacrifice really rubbed me the wrong way.

Ultimately I really hated these two people, hated the amount of dubious underage sex presented as normal, and came away thinking the entire novel just tries too way, way too hard.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
January 15, 2016
Between his skin and hers, there was the smallest of spaces, barely enough for air, for this slick of sweat now chilling. Even still, a third person, their marriage, had slid in.

This book is beautifully-written. I can't deny that and I won't try, which is why it gets an extra star. Fates and Furies is everyday poetry for those looking to turn the mundane into a meditation on the beauty of words and the power of metaphor. But when it comes to plot, characters and emotion, it leaves something to be desired.

Peeling back the layers of poetry, I found... nothing. This truly is a book of poetic words masking uninteresting characters and a boring plot. Both of which are viewed through a distant, purple-tinted lens, delivering no warmth or connection to the story.

Personally, I do not think this is like Gone Girl at all, story-wise or stylistically. Especially not stylistically. The comparisons emerge from a marriage being told with changing perspectives (and how this changes our view of it), plus the upper middle class wealth of the characters.

Gone Girl, for all its faults, uses words to tell a *mostly* compelling story with fascinating characters. Fates and Furies uses a weak story as a means to explore language, word usage and metaphor. The basic, fundamental goals of each book feel different.

Plus, I think - and this might get some raised eyebrows - that the characters of Gone Girl are saved from being completely unlikable. Or perhaps, at least, elicit a powerful enough response from us that we care about them, remember them, and love to hate them. Amy might be but she's also smart, charming and insightful. There is none of that "love to hate" here. Lotto and Mathilde are merely obnoxious and irritating.

The plot is revealed, almost in its entirety, by the book description. This is about a marriage, told from the two different sides and, clearly, we are going to get a very different view from each side. There is no "twist" really, just a changing view of events and characters. There is also a running metaphor tied in with Greek mythology, which some might perceive as feminist.

To be honest, I liked the idea of the feminist symbolism more than the heavy-handed execution. The idea is that women are always more than they seem, today and historically, smart and cunning behind the scenes, manipulating events like the Greek Fates and Furies themselves. But the author kind of bashes us over the head with the cleverness of her own metaphor. Lotto even makes some dumbass speeches about wives and gender roles, and when the truth is revealed via Mathilde’s POV, it is clearly supposed to drill the author's point home.

In fact, many things were done wrong. Lotto is a playwright and the book contained long extracts from his plays, which was incredibly tedious. I also didn't want to use the P-word in a book with a word mission like this, but damn, it is pretentious. Sorry, but...
He would have liked to go deeper into her, to seat himself on the seat of her lacrimal bone and ride there, tiny homunculus like a rodeo cowboy, understand what it was she thought.

Also, the repetitive and gross descriptions of sex and sexual desire felt unnecessary. I don't mean to be prudish, but everyone in this book is experiencing some kind of weird sexual inclination toward other people. It seems to be the "thing" these days to deconstruct sex into something political, harsh and unpleasant - Gone Girl did that too - but it was just tiring here. Not exciting, not interesting, not shocking.
He imagined a lifetime of screwing on the beach until they were one of those ancient pairs speed-walking in the morning, skin like lacquered walnut meat. Even old, he would waltz her into the dunes and have his way with her sexy frail bird bones, the plastic hips, the bionic knee.

Fates and Furies feels like a book for readers who genuinely enjoy the exploration of language and metaphor, and do not require some kind of emotional connection with the characters or story.

If you're looking for a twisty mystery with unlikable characters, stick with Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. If those characters are too unlikable for you, read Tana French (or just do that anyway). If you're looking for a quieter character study about family life, try A Spool of Blue Thread.

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Profile Image for Vegantrav.
822 reviews184 followers
November 9, 2017
Two word review: pretentious garbage.

My apologies to the author, Lauren Groff, for being so harsh, but this novel is terrible.

Is Fates and Furies the worst novel I’ve read in 2015? We still have almost 3 full months remaining, but I have no doubt it will at least be in the top 3 worst reads of the year. I hated this novel. I only finished reading (hate-reading, actually) so I could have an outlet for my anger and disappointment: namely, writing a review of this novel.

Reading the description that Goodreads has posted on its main page for Fates and Furies is making me physically ill: “Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage . . . “

To the contrary, Fates and Furies is the antithesis of a literary masterpiece. The only expectation it defies is that of one expecting to read good literature. It is dazzling only in its level of insipid ludicrousness.

I am so angry that this book, so highly touted and so extravagantly praised

1. has failed utterly to live up to the basic premise promised: namely, the story of a marriage told first from the husband's POV and then, with startling discoveries, from the wife's POV; nope, it is no such thing; yes, there are two POVs, but there is hardly anything startling or eye-popping; this is not the Gone Girl of relationship fiction;

2. is so horribly written: all of the characters but especially the two main characters are fake and phony, barely resembling in their words and deeds the actions of any real human beings; the novel reads as if Groff spent a year watching nothing but Dallas, Dynasty, and reality television shows about rich jerks and drew her characters compositely therefrom;

3. has proven to be insipid to a degree that leaves me bemused: Groff’s knowledge of New York theater, which plays a very prominent role in the novel, is so often so completely wrong that I am stunned (did no one from the theater world read an advance copy of this novel?); she frequently makes up details that are so obviously false and ridiculous (such as someone selling blood sausages on the black market during WWII) that I cannot help but wonder how the editors failed to catch these outlandish errors.

My two prior reads just before Fates and Furies were Don Winslow’s The Cartel and Jonathan Franzen's Purity. These latter two books are touted as two of the biggest books of the year. After reading two such good works of literature (especially the Winslow novel), it was truly disappointing to encounter something so awful as Fates and Furies. How this novel made it onto the longlist of finalists for the National Book Award is beyond my comprehension.

Even the two main characters’ names are prima facie ridiculous: Lotto (short for Lancelot) is the husband and Mathilde is the wife. Yes, one of our protagonists is called Lotto. I realize that this is just a matter of personal taste and is rather petty on my part, and I shouldn’t really fault Groff for something so trivial as these names, but I just found these names to be stupid, really, really stupid and annoying. I could almost give Mathilde a pass for her name because she is French, but I won’t because everything else in this novel has poisoned my judgment to the point that even of the names of the characters are repugnant.

If I may, I shall, without spoiling anything, simply list some of the inanities of this novel:

1. Mathilde once allowed a leech that had latched onto her leg to stay because she was so lonely. Lotto thought this story was so touching that, years later, he began telling it as if it were his own. Yes, Mathilde was so lonely she let a parasite suck on her for a few days until it fell off in the shower, and when it fell off, she was sad. And her husband found this story moving. Right. Because lonely children love parasites sucking on their flesh. This is idiocy that defies description.

2. About 5 months after Lotto's mother, Antoinette, has died, Lotto is discussing how he and his mother had been estranged. Lotto is very emotional and is tearing up, and Chollie, his best friend, refers to Antoinette as a "loveless cunt" (pardon the language, but this is a direct quote). Yes, Lotto’s best friend, who supposedly loves Lotto more than anyone else in his life, tells his weeping, grieving friend that his dead mother was a “loveless cunt.” Does Groff really expect us to believe such balderdash?

3. Just before Chollie makes his "loveless cunt" comment, Lotto is speaking with Ariel (Mathilde’s former employer), whom he has not seen for nearly two decades. Ariel mentions, just off the cuff, that he heard Lotto has "come into a shocking inheritance." Yes, Ariel, who is basically a complete stranger to Lotto after a long absence from Lotto's life, apparently sees nothing at all ill-mannered in asking a stranger about inheriting a lot of money. Because this is how Groff imagines that real people act. It’s utterly unbelievable.

4. Lotto seems to write a brand new play, cast the actors, and produce and stage that same play all within about a year's time. And, when most productive, he is churning out one play a year. In what fantasy world of New York theater does Groff thinks that this happens?

5. Lotto and Mathilde get married after only knowing each other 2 weeks. Before the marriage, Lotto had been exceedingly promiscuous with both women and men, but he immediately settles down completely upon meeting Mathilde, gives up his promiscuous ways, and never comes close to cheating on her throughout their marriage. I suppose this is within the realm of possibility, but Groff changes Lotto so completely and instantaneously that the change just does not ring true.

6. The prose is just horrible and ludicrous. At one point, Groff provides a list of the items in massive garbage heap floating in the sea: "Spin of bottles and flip-flops and zip ties and packing peanuts and boas and baby-doll heads and false eyelashes and inflatable taxidermy . . ." (page 200). Inflatable taxidermy? What? Does she even know what taxidermy is? Is she just throwing words on the page randomly?

7. More horrible prose: ". . . there the moon was, glowering. Fickle, inconstant, that monthly changes in her circle orb" (page 199). Her circle orb? Really? I get the Shakespearean allusion, but still: how utterly pretentious!

8. Lotto and his sister, Rachel, refer to their mother as "muvva." I'll just leave it at that without further comment.

9. Lotto and Mathilde have a dog named God. Yep, that's just hilarious, isn't it? It's not that I'm offended by this; I'm not. I just think it's dumb. Really, really, really dumb.

10. Trying to describe an idyllic scene at Mathilde's grandmother's dairy farm in France (a grandmother who, we are told earlier, sold blood sausages on the black market in France during World War II--that's not even a thing: no one sold blood sausages on the black market in France or anywhere ever!), Groff writes, "The manure had been spread that morning and could be tasted in the milk" (page 216). Groff thinks this is a good thing. Ummmm, so if the milk tastes like manure, it's contaminated! That's nasty and gross. That's not how milk is supposed to taste. I'm a vegan and even I know that milk is not supposed to taste like bovine excrement! Sheeeeesh!!!

11. Mathilde takes a high-performance Mercedes for a drive at night. She turns off the headlights and speeds up to 110 mph. She hits a culvert and the car somersaults. Other than biting her tongue pretty badly, she is unhurt. Seriously: a car wreck at 110 mph and no real injury at all. Unbelievable!

12. We get insightful wisdom like this via Mathilde's thoughts on page 269: ". . . and what was grief but an extended tantrum to be salved by sex and candy." There is so much shitty writing about sex and completely off-the-wall ideas about and depictions of sex that I almost want to say this book is worse than Fifty Shades of Grey, but it’s not. Groff is not a completely inept writer.

13. Near the end, we get this gem of a sentence: “These silent intimacies made their marriage, not the ceremonies or parties or opening nights or occasions or spectacular fucks” (page 389). Yes, she used the noun phrase “spectacular fucks.” I’m no prude. Vulgar language does not offend me. But “spectacular fucks”? Really? This is supposed to pass for good literature? In a description of what really made our main characters’ marriage truly meaningful to themselves, we get the phrase “spectacular fucks.” It’s so terrible.

Okay, so I won't go on any more. I hated everything about this book. Even two of the supposed startling secrets near the end left me cold and bored. This novel is just terrible. Don't read it. Seriously, do not read this pretentious hokum.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
June 19, 2018
Gone Girl with slightly nicer people...

but it's Gone Girl only at its most elemental. it's the story of the marriage of two beautiful people; a marriage whose sparkling perfection and longevity is the envy of all. but no one knows what happens in a marriage behind closed doors. sometimes, not even its participants.

this is the story of the moving parts that keep a marriage going; the sacrifices and the machinations under the smooth facade. it's about how much work it takes to make it look effortless. it's about secrets.

and that's basically Gone Girl, right? the fact that a relationship is work, and if you let yourself slip into complacency, bad things can happen. it's nowhere near as misanthropic as Gone Girl, but strip away the sociopathy of dear amy, and you have a pretty compelling cautionary tale.

instead of amy we have mathilde - an enigmatic woman who captivates the charismatic lotto with her beauty and holds him with The dark whip at the center of her. How, so gently, she flicked it and kept him spinning. tall, privileged lady's man lotto proposes to mathilde upon their first meeting and loves her all his life. later, we will get her side of this first meeting and the calculation and misunderstanding at its center. it's a love story about two people who saw each other clearly enough to sustain twenty-four years of marriage, and what they didn't know couldn't hurt them. right?

it's hard not to say too much - lots of pressure being the very first review on here. all i knew going into it was that there were two parts, and the second part marks a huge shift in perspective that changes everything. it's not quite as simple as his-and-her narratives; the entire book is told in third-person perspectives, including parenthetical interjections from omniscient, possibly divine, commentators. but it's like a gigantic advent calendar of a book, where the more you read, the more is revealed, and the story is given more weight.

it's lauren groff, so there's a bit of magic to it, but only just subtle hints. and it's lauren groff, so there is exquisite writing: His wife carried their picnic basket to the edge of the lake under a willow so old it no longer wept, just sort of bore its fate with thickened equanimity.

it's lauren groff, so i loved it.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Debbie.
456 reviews2,905 followers
January 31, 2016
Amazingly brilliant. Language to die for. Fascinating characters. Clever format. But why did it take me three weeks to read?

This is a complex love story, full of secrets and regrets and passion. Part 1, Fates, is the husband’s story. Part 2, Furies, is the wife’s. It is absolutely brilliant.

Yeah, so why DID it take me so long to read this? Take a peek at my Complaint Board:

Complaint Board

Who ARE these guys in the twist? At the end, I got to a brilliant twist! I knew it was brilliant, but wait…..who are these two characters? I remember them….slightly… All I can say is, thank God I read this on a Kindle. I could search the names and get transported right back to the scenes where the characters were mentioned. Oh yes, now I see….lovely twist. Wow…So my beef is—you shouldn’t have to go back and dig around to find characters that are players in the twist. It didn’t ruin the read, but it detracted from the excitement, the “a-ha!” that goes with a cool twist. I’m sure it’s my old brain that let these characters escape from my line of sight, but I’d like to think it’s not all me, that it’s a flaw in the writing not to have made these characters bigger so I could remember them.

Just too long and dense. Especially the first part, which is the husband’s story. The sentence structure, though gorgeous, slowed me down. And because of its length (a little over 400 pages), it’s hard to remember what seem to be minor characters. This can be problematic; see my first complaint.

But I’m not interested in mythology! Or in the husband’s plays, for that matter. Part 1 has several long excerpts from the husband’s plays, most of which are based on myths. If you like and know myths, I’m sure it’s a kick. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a myth that didn’t make my eyes glaze over. I don’t like cilantro, I don’t like myths. Period. Editor voice: Cut out the plays. They don’t enhance the plot, they only interrupt it.

Party madness. (I’m realizing that all my complaints are about the husband’s story.) In his story, there is a series of New Year’s Eve parties, but they flowed into each other and it wasn’t clear at first that there are multiple years being covered. Super confusing to me. Also, there were several characters that suddenly appeared at the parties, and it wasn’t clear whether we were supposed to pay close attention to them. And one hostile conversation (where a woman is called a total vagina and later a pig face) seemed over-the-top and unbelievable. Would people at a party actually say such things?

The Voice. Super minor, but annoying: The husband’s aunt used “ain’t”, but his family was rich and classy; “ain’t” just doesn’t seem to fit. Also, when the husband’s sister was young, she often sounded like an adult.

Quick! Give me a dictionary! I like learning a few new words, but there were a LOT here, sometimes two or more to a page. Reading this would be a great way to learn vocabulary for the SATs.

She’s more interesting than he is. The wife is more dynamic and complex than the husband. Luckily, her story is the one at the end, so the joy flows as you read on.

Joy Jar

Okay. Now for the good—no, the incredible—stuff . To start with, the characters are so vivid, I felt like I really knew what makes them tick. They are complex, intriguing, flawed. The third-person narration made me believe it all; there were no unreliable narrators to make me worry that any of it was false. This was so clever! I mean, I love a good unreliable narrator, but here, it was cool the way the narration made everything believable. Groff made the story feel personal, even though it wasn’t told in first person. I felt like I was in the in-crowd; it made me feel lucky and privileged that I was getting the real scoop.

Groff is wise and her ideas are fresh. Some sentences made me ponder with glee, even if I did have to read them twice! And I ate up the language and the images.

Here are a few quotes, to give you a taste:

“Chollie, hello! He is deformed, crooked, old and sere; ill-faced, worse bodied, shapeless everywhere; vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind; stigmatical in making, worse in mind. My best friend.”

“By the time he stood, anxiety was thickening in his chest: he hated putting off work when he was in the mood. It was as if the muses were singing (rather, humming) and he’d stuffed up his ears.”

“She hated perfume. It was a cover for poor hygiene or for body shame. Clean people never aspired to the floral.”

This book is an amazing and complex and ultimately sad love story. No marriage is what it seems, and this one is no exception—there are secrets and sorrows and guilt and failures. Insecurities, vulnerabilities, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities. The characters are often underground, not exposing their real selves—neither their feelings nor actions—to each other, though their mutual love is intense. Here’s a favorite paragraph:

"Marriage is made of lies; kind ones, mostly. Omissions. If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you'd crush them to paste. She never lied, just never said."

Their charged relationship makes for a juicy read, especially when you get to her story. (His story does have one exceptionally dramatic and memorable section about his stay at a writer’s retreat.) Groff deftly shows us the history and motives (many of which are doozies) behind the scenes. It makes me think—just how open and honest are people in “happy” marriages? Happy on the outside, but inside, what’s going on?

The second part is what makes this book sing. I kept whispering “pure genius” as I saw what was happening from the wife’s point of view. And she was such a fascinating character, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. To me, what made this book phenomenal was the constant “ah-ha’s” in my head: “Ah, now I understand.” “Well I’ll be damned.” No!” Plot twists galore, with a great ending. The story made my mind jump, made the book sort of interactive in a cool way, in that as I read the second half of the book, I would naturally remember back to the first way the story was told. It made my mind love the play of back and forth, as I looked at two versions of one event—pure delight. Seriously, I’ve never read anything like it.

But, as I said, this was a slow read, especially the first part. I still think this book is phenomenal, and I think it deserves awards. 4.5 pretty damn big stars.

Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,607 reviews5,994 followers
October 23, 2015

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I hate this book. There I said it. I keep trying to read it and then I look down and it says I still have soooo much time left in this book. I'm never going to finish.

The only character that I'm somewhat interested in is Chollie. The rest of them are just pretentious hipster assholes.

I'm a dnf'er. And I'm proud.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review

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I'm probably totally missing out by not making myself finish this book. (I'm still not gonna do it) but my friend Leanne loved it and wrote a beautiful review for the book.
Profile Image for Judith.
458 reviews71 followers
November 4, 2017
I'm approaching my 1/3rd rule with this book (if a book hasn't grabbed me by 1/3rd of the way in it's not worth continuing with it) and the urge to hurl it out the window is proving irresistible. It's not often I say I hate a book, but I absolutely hate this, and yes, I realise I'm sticking my neck out, and I'll more than likely be in the minority, but c'est la vie. I cannot join the herd and say I like something when I don't

This is a long, drawn out story about Lotto (short for Lancelot) and his marriage to Mathilde, The Perfect American Golden Couple. He calls his mother Muvva (!) - yergh. They are beautiful (of course - who wants to read about plain or ugly people?), clever, artistic and neurotic.

The prose in this book is so over the top, so flamboyant, obscure and ostentatious I just cannot stand it. This particular passage had me cringing:
"...She stretched her long arms over her head, and there were little nests of winter hair in the pits. She could hatch baby robins in those things. She looked at him, savoring her own knowing, his unknowing."

Often the "sentences" are just one word. Does this author think it's clever to write this way? Obviously. I don't know if this her usual style as I haven't read anything of hers - and this certainly does not encourage me to read her earlier books. It's another case of throwing every word you know, whether it actually makes sense or not - but never mind, it looks impressive.

I don't doubt that Ms Groff toiled long and hard over this, in an effort to write The Great American Novel, but to me it comes across as self-indulgent fiddle-faddle. Described as "a literary masterpiece that defies expectation." Yes indeed, it did defy my expectation, but not in the way the writer of that line meant. Who is it who decides what I, the reader will like; who is it who calls this a masterpiece? Those of us who don't agree are already at a disadvantage as we will be expected to explain and justify our reasons, whereas those who agree can sit back smugly.

I dislike this book intensely.
End of.

Amazon sent me a free copy speficicaly for review purposes.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews623 followers
June 2, 2015
3.5 Stars
I have a mixed feelings toward this novel.
On the positive note... I was interested in the story about the married couple. I think this book is an excellent commentary on marriage.... what makes it work... and what makes it fail.

The author captures each character's individuality.... while at the same time invites us
to experience the intimacy of this marriage. I like much on this story-- yet.. I'm aware I was often 'detached'. This was not a book for me- that kept me turning pages with urgency. I enjoyed it reading this novel - but enjoyed my breaks away from it equally as much. I seemed to require reading breaks to recharge my own energy. Something about this story would
begin to drain me. ( it was just an observation I needed to respect) .. With breaks.. I often 'did'
return to my reading with a bright freshness.

I felt the beginning was very strong... when two people were walking up the beach-- she
in her green bikini, he tall --- ( both attractive), and then to find out they were married just that morning in secret. Yet, after a while, I felt there were too many mind-numbing details
that started to suck the energy from the story.
The writing frequently failed to keep my attention. I felt exhausted...( often re-reading sentences to bring myself back into focus).

Although I felt I got to know the characters pretty well. I didn't feel strong emotions. I was't 'feeling' any human frailty, or sadness,
or joy... just very neutral. Possibly if this novel wasn't as long I might have had a chance to directly feel more about each of the characters.. and the journey they went through.

This is a big- long- lush- slowly progressing story... one that in totality I appreciate -
and am glad I read it. It's also possible - that this story may grow on me as time goes on.
I'm aware that 'sometimes' books are enhanced for me once I begin engaging in book discussions. This might just be one of those books!

Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author, for allowing me to read this.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
September 13, 2015
Wow! I started reading Fates and Furies a few times and my interest quickly waned because the writing felt impenetrable. But this time I forced myself to read beyond the first few pages, and after sticking it out for a while I got completely sucked in -- by the writing, the concept, the atmosphere and the story. Groff's writing is unusual, both in style and in pacing. Her sentences feel messy and there's an arrhythmic staccato to the way in which the story moves forward. But once I fell in step with her beat, I didn't want to let go. In the first part, she had a brilliant lengthy section, in which the passage of time is marked by drifting from one gathering to another, in increments of approximately one year, the movement to another year marked by small changes in the dynamics between people and the eventual mention of a new occasion. And Groff brilliantly seamlessly shifts points of view, occasionally moving the story away from the two main characters and looking through the lens of the supporting cast -- even working in a brief lovely cat's view at one point. As I say, I loved the writing, but there's also a real richness to the story that kept me wanting to read. And shame on anyone who makes any comparison between this book and Gone Girl. The only commonality is that the stories are focused on marriages in which husbands and wives live in different realities. But Fates and Furies is an entirely different story -- it's not a mystery or a thriller -- it's about the the intense love and disparity between Lotto and Matilde throughout their twenty year plus marriage. The first part focuses on Lotto -- the big egotistical son of a wealthy Florida family -- and his perspective on life with Matilde -- his intense love, mixed in with self absorption and neediness. In the second half, we double back and get Matilde's point of view -- including a view into her impoverished dark childhood and adolescence, and her intense love for Lotto, mixed in with a fury and secretiveness fuelled by her past. For me, this made for a complex, layered, beautiful, emotional novel. It's clear from reviews that this book is not everyone's cup of tea and I suspect that for some the writing will be a turn off as it was for me initially, but -- wow again -- after getting over my initial hesitation, this was a really rich reading experience. I hadn't read anything else by Groff, but I've had Arcadia waiting on my shelf for a long time which I will definitely get to sometime soon. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,719 followers
September 22, 2022
I’m not exactly sure how to describe this novel. A realistic love story that depicts all the warts and secrets of a marriage? Or maybe just a twisted fairy tale – where what we see on the surface is much prettier than the truth? I thought I was going to love this, and for a while I did. I like a bit of clever writing. I relished the idea of following a couple through two decades of marriage and exploring the idea that “Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives” as asserted in the blurb. Groff certainly didn’t let me down there. I saw two sides indeed – both Lotto and Mathilde’s stories, a glamorous couple married at the tender age of twenty-two. And there were most definitely some brilliant revelations and savvy turns of phrase that I both admired and understood.

“Between his skin and hers, there was the smallest of spaces, barely enough for air, for this slick of sweat now chilling. Even still, a third person, their marriage, had slid in.”

No one else can ever truly know our inner selves, our deepest desires, and our hidden pasts. No epiphany there of course, but I was still interested in what Groff might do with this. The first half of the book we see mostly Lotto’s perspective while the second half is Mathilde’s story. I have to admit I was looking forward to examining the unsavory aspects of their lives, taking a peek behind the closed doors of the marital home. It’s an intense relationship – filled with sex, lies, and omissions, but also love. Oddly enough, I was most invested in the first half of the story, although Mathilde’s section was the more intriguing of the two.

“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.”

There were two problems that I began to have with the novel at the midway point. First of all, I felt I had to work too hard as a reader to keep up. Maybe I’m just getting lazy, but the continual jumps back and forth in the chronological timeline made me dizzy. I realize this served a purpose in order to very slowly reveal to the reader some very important plot elements. Still… I began to lose focus. When I lose focus, I lose interest. Secondly, while the language enticed me initially, I began to feel it was overdone and verging on pretentiousness. I love dazzling prose, but here it went too far. Now I will say that this was loaded with quite a few privileged, shallow characters, often committing despicable acts – and there are plenty of times when this sort of thing completely holds me in its thrall. (I’m thinking about The Secret History, which I adored.) However, I just couldn’t quite believe these were real people, whether we were glimpsing the good or the bad in them. And the more I think about it, the more I realize this was likely due to the writing style. For me, that makes all the difference.

I did have enough interest to see this through to the end. I felt it held a lot of promise at the start, and there were some smart reflections on marriage and family relationships. I’m sure it will appeal to certain readers that don’t mind skipping somewhat haphazardly about the timeline. There was an interesting twist but by the time it arrived, I was tired out. Maybe my life distractions are to blame, but I’ve read some other books in this frame of mind that have worked perfectly fine for me. I just need to avoid the gimmicky ones at the moment!

“It was mathematical, marriage. Not, as one might expect, additional. It was exponential… more than the highlights, the bright events, it was in the small and the daily where she’d found life.”
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
506 reviews1,488 followers
March 7, 2016
The characters in this novel are despicable, spiteful and plain unlikeable. However, that being said, Fates & Furies was a phenomenal read.
This is the love story of Lotto and Mathilde. The Fates: The building up of a 20 year marriage. The Furies: The delayering of it. From perfection to perfectly flawed characters stripped of their stories living in their own play. The final act: A death reveals a truth. This is a backwards, upside down spiral of a story that will require the reader to piece it back together again in an attempt to decipher the people who we believe we are closest to; whom we think we know and love, when in reality, have never been further from the truth. The lengths one woman would go for love in order to protect it.
Groff writes splendid prose with Shakespearean and mythological references woven in. Read it, relish it. I’ve read some conflicting reviews - Groff's style is quite unique - but I have to say, this woman can write!
I'm not a huge fan of plays which has me keeping this at a 4.5 rather than a 5. I'm going to round down this time.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,050 reviews48.7k followers
September 9, 2015
Even from her impossibly high starting point, Lauren Groff just keeps getting better and better. Her debut novel, “The Monsters of Templeton” (2008); her stirring story collection, “Delicate Edible Birds”; and my favorite book of 2012, “Arcadia ” — all demonstrated her exquisite style and tough, heart-breaking compassion. But her new novel, “Fates and Furies,” is a clear-the-ground triumph. Spanning decades, oceans and the whole economic scale from indigence to opulence, this novel holds within its grasp the story of one extraordinary marriage. Not yet 40, Groff nonetheless captures the complicated ways love blesses, transforms and, yes, deceives us over many years.

The novel’s title reflects its two-part structure. The first half concocts the whole blessed life of Lancelot “Lotto” Satterwhite. Born “in the calm eye of a hurricane” — lucky from the start — Lotto is the adored son of a wealthy Florida family. “Loud and full of light,” he waxes strong in spirit, a young man people either adore or resent — sometimes simultaneously. . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post
Profile Image for Cher.
818 reviews281 followers
March 26, 2016
1.5 stars - I didn't like it.

This could be the first addition to a new genre, literary erotica(lite). If that makes you excited or more interested to read it, don't set yourself up for disappointment. The moral of the review is that if you write about sex for almost 300 pages (75% of the book) and still end up with a monotonous, tedious, unprovocative novel, then something has going disastrously wrong.

The author "tells" you that the couple have this epic, out of this world love for one another, but all you are "shown" is a superficial, childish, unhealthy relationship driven by lust, which could never be confused for love.

The first half, Fates, is told from the husband's point of view and was utterly painful to read. The husband is a caricature of every hero cliché and trope - handsome, rich, charming, intelligent, etc. This almost worthless part of the book was filled with a trashy log of his sexual conquests (don't get excited - the sex is all very uninspiring), with scattered catty gossip for added mental torture. There was absolutely no substance a reader could sink their teeth into - just pretentious fluffiness that aspired to be bold, but fell far short of the goal.

The second half, Furies, is told from the wife's point of view and is a marked improvement from the 1st half of the novel (but still only worthy of an average rating, at best). More salacious sex but at least there is some sort of depth to the story and the brief glimpses of the interesting character, Antoinette, create a spark of interest.

What a horrible disappointment from my most anticipated Fall release. It is simply a shallow read that I won't remember by the end of the month. And that huge "shocking" twist at the end of the book? Yawn. Not shocked. No cares to give.

I seriously doubt I will ever be tempted to pick up another book by this author; We're clearly not a fit for one another. If you'd like to also read a positive take on this one from one of my trusted reviewers (we can't see eye to eye on every thing or life would be boring!) then I recommend checking out Leanne's review .
Favorite Quote: More than the highlights, the bright events, it was in the small and the daily where she’d found life.

First Sentence: A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain’s sudden sweeping.
Profile Image for Sarah.
351 reviews162 followers
October 1, 2015
The trouble I have with contemporary literary fiction is that I’m still primed to expect it to be more than it is. Like most newer books I’ve read lately, this is an engaging series of improbable events happening to gorgeous people, which elucidates no serious truths about the world around me. There’s nothing wrong with that and I enjoyed reading it, but I feel a lingering pressure to feel more.
Profile Image for Katie.
279 reviews359 followers
July 16, 2016
The miracle of this ravishing novel is that it takes such well-worn subjects as marriage and the career of a writer and makes them utterly fresh and compelling because of Groff’s dazzling prose and the ingeniously revisionist structure of the book.

The underlying premise here is that it’s much more difficult for a wife to sustain a happy marriage than it is for a husband. A generalisation of course. But a generalisation that was probably 90% true until this century and is probably still about 60 or 70% true – mainly because of the pressure on women to conform to society’s blueprint for female physical appearance which is far more exacting and crushing than anything men have to deal with. The novel is split into two perspectives of the same marriage – Lotto, the husband (the fates) and Mathilde, the wife (the furies). First we get Lotto’s perspective. Lotto immediately idealises Mathilde. He wants to see her as pure, a saint. And sustains this idea by showing little curiosity about her past which, of course, means her inner life. To Lotto she comes into being the day they meet, like Botticelli’s Venus emerging from her shell. Lotto is like a golden Labrador, bounding around good naturedly, living in the moment, trusting in the world to deliver up everything he needs. We get an early hint at just how strenuously Mathilde is supporting him in his wilfully myopic naivety when his ambitions to become an actor come to nothing and it is she who supports him by working.

Not surprisingly the novel’s thrill factor is cranked up when we get Mathilde’s perspective of the marriage. We soon learn just how much of Lotto’s success (he becomes a successful playwright) is down to ruthless and taxing Machiavellian scheming on the part of Mathilde. What Lotto thinks he earns through good fortune and the purity of his ambition we learn has often been the result of Mathilde pulling hidden strings in the dark. Mathilde, the moon to Lotto’s sun, the cat to Lotto’s dog, shelters her husband from the harsh realities of the world, like a mother with her child. “Boys belong to their mothers. Cord cut decades ago, but they’ll always share the warm, dark swim.”

Another thing Groff is doing is taking up the feminist argument that male genius often owes much to the unacknowledged contribution of the female at their side. Would Scott have been such an inspired author without Zelda? Groff makes a very literal case for this when she has Mathilde even fine tuning Lotto’s manuscripts without him realising, a somewhat implausible development it has to be said.

In fact, there are a fair few implausible details in Mathilde’s biography though surprisingly they rankle barely at all because of the transfiguring and masterfully controlled nature of Groff’s prose. It’s sometimes like Groff introduces high drama motifs – a private detective, a mysterious child death, dark hints at child abuse - simply to discover she doesn’t need them to construct a gripping plot. There’s even a stolen old master painting which appears and then quickly disappears as if Groff is winking mischievously at Donna Tart. The ending, which seeks to tie up the high drama motifs, is probably the least satisfying thing about this novel.

“Marriage is made of lies. Kind ones, mostly. Omissions. If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you’d crush them to paste. She never lied. Just never said.”
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,226 followers
October 24, 2018
The only award I'd bestow on this is the most unconvincing portrait of a literary genius ever written. Lancelot Satterwhite (his father's name is Gawain though we're missing Merlin) is the character in question. As his name would suggest he's a buffoonish knight in expensive armour. He makes two life-changing transformations - firstly, he changes from a womaniser into a model husband overnight; then he changes from a third rate actor into a first rate playwright literally overnight. The suspension of disbelief in both cases is much more problematic than anything in Harry Potter. When Groff with brave foolhardiness provides us excerpts from his plays our suspicion that he's far from possessing the talent to write any kind of groundbreaking or commercially successful play are more than confirmed.

I wish I could say what this novel is about; however its motivational drive eluded me. It says on the jacket that the key to every marriage is not its truths but its secrets. That's an interesting idea but not one the novel explores with any subtlety. The secrets in this book are essentially melodramatic and even a little preposterous; they're also all one-sided which meant you had one overly complex character, the wife, and one overly simplistic, the husband. At times Groff flirts with leftfield feminist notions of the role a wife plays in the creative output of her husband, like the idea Zelda was the real genius in the Fitzgerald partnership. You can imagine a male backlash to these notions and in a hundred years men claiming Leonard was the true genius in the Woolf marriage or Middleton Murray was the real driving force behind Katherine Mansfield's gift. They'd be no less absurd. At other times it posits the idea that men are either loveable simpletons or sinister predators, that you get what you see (Groff seems to equate fat with pernicious intent), and it's left to women to alchemise all the complexity and inner life of a relationship. There's probably a great novel to be had in juxtaposing the divergent perspectives of the man and the woman in a single marriage. The key would be to make both points of view equally as valid and credible. A massive problem for me here was neither male nor female were credible - Lancelot never once seemed to possess an inner life; Mathilde on the other hand was ALL inner life. It's also a novel brimming with allusions to classical literature as if it boasts layer upon layer of profundity. Even the title would imply we're dealing with a book with lofty pretensions. But all the allusions seemed vapid to me. I was rarely convinced Groff had command of her material in this novel. Did she, for example, intend her two central characters to come across as overgrown children? The first half isn't the perspective of the husband and the second half the perspective of the wife as some have suggested. There are clumsy deviations and overlappings in the narrative voice in both sections. Neither was I convinced she has a gift for comedy. I often found myself wishing for more gravitas. However there was the sense Groff will write a good novel. Perhaps she just needs to grow up a bit? I'm sure it's a better novel than I'm making it out to be but sometimes a book irritates us and we become a bit irrational and exaggerated in our dislike. It was the whimsical tone with its posturing prose that irritated me here.

On a final note I struggle to understand why Obama loved this so much, especially because not one of the outrageously spoilt and privileged characters would have voted for him.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
September 3, 2022
O, Paean to Marriage, Mythology and Theatre
"Marriage is made of lies; kind ones, mostly. Omissions. If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you'd crush them to paste. She never lied, just never said."
The difficulty in reviewing this novel is avoiding disclosure of too much of the plot or structure. That, I have learned that many Goodreads friends bungled the bullocks on this novel. I still got nuttin but love for 'em.

In resplendent prose, Ms. Groff's story dissects a marriage: a community of 2... as 1 ("in they came integers, out they came squared"). We see the marriage and love's blossoming first from the husband's perspective, then from the wife's point of view. I heard Ms. Groff say in an interview that it took her nearly 5 years to write this book. It shows, splendidly. The novel is fabulous, at times stormy, and always ambitious, and has all the elements of the greats: passion, deception, betrayal, tragedy, redemption.

Lauren Groff probes the marriage of two vibrant and fully-developed characters, Lotto and Mathilde (and an assorted, colorful cast of their friends and family) by calling, with seeming ease, to the ancients in Greek tragedies, mythology, and of course the marvelously provided subtext of the Fates and the Furies.

Lotto is a failed actor turned playwright, and Mathilde is quite a scholar in fine arts. So naturally, Ms. Groff made her novel also a paean to the theater ("empty theaters are quieter than other empty places"), playwrights and Shakespearean tragedies, which she compliments with remarkable symbolism and short readings of rich pieces of original meta-plays, while always avoiding any trace of the affected, didactic or overly erudite.

I found this strikingly rewarding and quite original. As all the great ones do, this novel made me reflect heavily upon good and evil (and the gray gulf between). It also provoked deep contemplation of the different perspectives of each spouse and the transformation of love in marriage, from passionate to supportive and co-raising to comforting to, finally, "I cannot imagine a life I would or could have lived without you in it," at some point of which "marriage" really does mean that two meld into (but are never quite) one.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,028 reviews374 followers
April 3, 2022
As Balas dos Relacionamentos

Esta história tem tudo a ver com as armas mortíferas dos relacionamentos!
Com aquelas verdades contundentes que se retêm e azedam cá dentro. Com os pecados inconfessados por receio de demolir o Nós construído!...

É certo e sabido, que tal estratégia, embora praticada por muitos, está condenada ao fracasso, pois a Verdade nunca se aguenta muito tempo no fundo do poço. E… até tende a emergir impura, contaminada por interpretações viperinas, que só lhe engrandecem o poder destrutivo!...

Um Nós digno desse nome leva-nos mais longe no Amor, celebrando o melhor e reciclando o pior. Progredimos no Amor ao evoluirmos numa interacção envolvente, onde permanecemos continuamente expostos!...

Transitando do geral para o particular, ocupemo-nos, agora, da história de Lancelot e Mathilde:

A primeira parte tem a ver com ele — o menino família depravado, apaixona-se pela bela modelo, e:

KABUUUMMM — O Sapo vira Príncipe!

O Don Juan, o amante de todas as mulheres, passa a Romeu, surpreendendo tudo e todos. E fá-lo com a maior naturalidade, sem o menor esforço visível!
Mathilde é a Mulher — aquela que o faz esquecer todas as outras porque tem tudo o que ele alguma vez desejou!...

A segunda parte pertence a Mathilde. Sendo a mais empolgante é também aquela em que a porca torce o rabo:
Mathilde é complexa, misteriosa, enigmática!...
É uma ostra que quando aberta expõe segredos capazes de afectar perigosamente o seu relacionamento com Lancelot, e é com ela que a história vira — dá-se um volte-face que imprime um novo rumo à leitura, tornando-a mais dramática e envolvente!...

"Destinos e Fúrias" é uma leitura desafiante. Está escrito num estilo metafórico, que não agrada a todos, mas que se aprende a gostar. E falo com a voz da experiência, pois assim sucedeu comigo!
Quanto à história em si, é deveras credível, ocupando-se dum tema que nos toca profundamente a todos — o relacionamento.

Concluída esta resenha, que me levou a reflectir profusamente sobre o que li, pergunto-me se não seria caso para um 5?!
Bem... É um 4 a atirar para o 5, pois nutro um especial prazer por livros que me espicaçam os neurónios (a minha tradução livre de “food for thought” 😉)😍👍
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,174 reviews8,400 followers
December 16, 2017
“It occurred to her then that life was conical in shape, the past broadening beyond the sharp point of the lived moment. The more life you had, the more the base expanded, so that the wounds and treasons that were nearly imperceptible when they happened stretched like tiny dots on a balloon slowly blown up. A speck on the slender child grows into a gross deformity in the adult, inescapable, ragged at the edges.”

I think that quote sums this book up pretty well. It's a book about perspective—and perception. About how people can seem one way but be another, or how life may seem to go in one direction but to someone else it's moving in the totally opposite way.

The writing was sharp, but lush. The characters were horrible but wonderful. Overall, this book was a mess of contradictions in a really good way. Definitely not a story for everyone, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. Haven't been the biggest fan of Groff's short stories, but this one worked for me.
Profile Image for Brown Girl Reading.
356 reviews1,575 followers
December 22, 2015
The only reason why I gave this book 2 stars was because of the beautiful writing. However the stereotypical main characters, pretentious sentences that don't really mean anything, dry storyline, and forgettable characters almost left me in a reading slump. I was really disappointed with this one because I expected so much more from it (National Book Award and Pulitzer nominations) but once again I was a victim of book hype.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books969 followers
May 7, 2022
Dedicated to my daughter, who insisted I read it, so I gave up my "life is too short" pledge to abandon books that wear on me to finish it. Glad I did? Glad is too strong a word. I feel... noble. Like after going to church (despite the overly-long sermon). Or after giving blood (despite the poorly-inserted needle that leaves the crook of my arm black and blue). Meaning, for starters, that this novel, weighing in at 390 pp., would have been stronger at 250 pp. Novelists DO love the liberty of their expansive genre, however. It forgives a multitude (and I do mean multitude) of sins.

On p. 57, I came across this quote that, strangely enough, sums up the attitude of many of the book's characters: "Life isn't worth living unless you are young and surrounded by other young people in a beautiful cold garden perfumed by dirt and flowers and fallen leaves, gleaming in the string of lights, listening to the quiet city on the last fine night of the year."

And so it goes in this grim fairy tale of the young and the beautiful and the damned. The lovely Sir Launcelot (call him "Lotto," of all things) is beloved by one and all because, well, he's not really "real." He is the focal point of the first half of the book ("Fates," which gets 2 stars and consumes a whopping 206 pp... a land no "life is too short" abandoner in his right mind would venture to) and is beloved by one and all... old and young, male and female, puppy dogs and unicorns. Though dimmed and (thankfully) secondary in the second half of the book ("Furies," which gets 4 stars on the generosity of my thankfulness), he becomes less of a drag on the novel.

Anyway, Lotto's acting dreams come to naught until, one night, drunk and tired and unable to sleep, he decides (out of the blue) to write a play. Granted, there was no mention of writing or even writing ambitions previous to this, but he does, and in the morning, his much-more-interesting wife, Mathilde, reads the play over his sleeping lion's mane (did I mention he's beautiful and beloved by one and all?) and lo, it is Broadway-worthy in its insights and fluidity.

You guessed it. The ne'er-do-well golden boy who can't act becomes the latest phenom in playwrights. And this play is no flash in the pan, either. He will churn out more stunners, one after the other, each gussied up a bit in secret by Mathilde, the faithful wife who understands that hunger is good discipline and that her husband's personal lost generation is about to find itself in a big way.

Maybe me, but as I age (and age I do), my patience for fairy tales, even grim ones dressed in realism's clothing, grows shorter. So many of these youngsters are, well, unlikable and self-absorbed. For poor people (pre-sudden fame), they sure do eat well. The garden, you see. Where champagne must grow, too (the fertile Hudson Valley!). And mein Gut the sex. Mix and match. These people have sex (breeder sex, same-sex sex, whatever) as casually as you order coffee at Starbucks. Generational, maybe. Or good book-selling form in the modern age, maybe (I don't know. Did I mention my age problem?).

Luckily, the book is somewhat rescued when it turns its attention to the self-effacing wife, much more interesting than self-promoting hubby. Mathilde's faults as a character also suffer but for more interesting reasons. Her background isn't terribly realistic, either, I fear, but Groff at least makes it enough of a train wreck to earn the reader's rubber-necking. Oh, my. How sad! How horrible! And this in the 20th century? (Yes, it's set back a few decades.)

"Furies" also has the benefit of plot revelations. In waves that sometimes confuse, the narrative keeps switching from present to past so as to provide the already-overloaded by overwritten material reader a glance at scenes we missed (while skimming, maybe), information withheld (while getting a snack, possibly), and all that hey nonny nonny nonsense that goes on behind the arras (I see Groff's gratuitous Shakespeare allusions and raise it one) in a novel.

At times, I'll admit, Groff offers poetic moments. Once a middle-aged man walks by a Christmas scene in Lancelot & Mathilde's young and hungry Camelot house with friends (the tinsel, don't you see) and drinks and food and love and drama as shepherds. Not knowing any better, the image sticks with this stranger as the essence of happiness in life. With that lie in his head, he returns to his humdrum life with wife and kids.

And so it goes. Without the details, we are all prone to glimpses of pretty strangers, to the lie that theirs is a perfect life, to the belief that happiness is on the other side of our mundane fences. But no. It's often ugly, as many of the characters here certainly are with their overwritten histories and sullied-ain't-the-word-for-it backgrounds. And when you finish, you feel relieved to say your goodbyes.

The book had its moments. It's not my type of book, so consider this critique with the proverbial mountain of salt. I can see how Fates and Furies might entertain many other readers. Because, perhaps, it's becoming harder to entertain in the soap opera world (and don't even get me going on the opera angle in this book!) of contemporary "realistic" fiction, so some authors just try harder.

And succeed. In their way.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,864 followers
January 2, 2016
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 silence, and Mathilde had only ever life to Lotto in what she never said."

As a literary construct, Fates and Furies is a mannered edifice of spun sugar, gorgeous and brittle. As a story, it splits open the melon of marriage to show the overripe flesh inside and a core that is on the verge of rotting. I can smell it, like Lotto can smell the garbage Mathilde hasn't taken out in his absence, because the garbage is his chore. And the odor is proof she can't manage without him. Or so he believes. But what is the truth behind that whiff of decay?

Oh, the truth. Truth, you wily coyote. The mutability of truth in marriage—this is the pungent, nearly rotten core of Fates and Furies. The novel exposes what really lies inside a long-term relationship, once the smooth, silky skin of its public face is broken and the truth spills out.

Fates is the story of Lancelot "Lotto" Satterwhite, a charismatic actor-turned-playwright whose narcissism imbues his character with an unearned optimism. He is malleable in the hands of the women who direct his life, from his mother, to his sister, to his wife, Mathilde. After plunging every girl he encounters in democratic but detached delight, he falls irretrievably in love with tall, needle-sharp, wise Mathilde in the weeks before they graduate from Vassar. Fates recounts their storybook passion, his fidelity, and quite boringly, the content of his many successful stage plays. It is a meringue of a marriage, where poverty and success are equally delicious, and Lotto's star rises in platinum brilliance until . . .

(Until... Much has been made of the plot twist that I didn't find all that twisty. This reader never got terribly caught up in caring about the characters, so I wasn't so much gutted or surprised as I was amused. It's not that I don't want to "spoil" things for you, but there are plenty of reviews which reveal the details of the plot's change-up and this just won't be one of them)

... Until the book's second section, Furies , which lets us in on Mathilde's side of the story. Her biography is worthy of a Frances Hodgson Burnett sepia-toned tragedy and is nearly ridiculous in its epic disastrousness. Probably why I love it so. Mathilde is a wonderful anti-heroine. Gaspingly self-serving and cruel, yet somehow we root for her, as she contracts to skin and bone in harrowing grief.

There are moments of jarring authorial heavy-handedness. Too-clever literary devices—the omniscient narrator parentheticals were tiresome, the outlining of the plays tedious— but Groff's writing is so sublime, so ridiculously fine, I hardly cared.

I love this novel for all the ways it is ambitious, melodramatic, vertiginous, erudite, wordy, cynical, lush, kaleidoscopic, implausible, abstract, and tedious. This is an author writing from a place of confidence, giving zero fucks while she executes an inward pike from the high dive—not a perfect dive, mind you, but one that leaves your jaw hanging nonetheless.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,627 followers
April 19, 2020
This book was amazing! It kind of reminded me of "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn because it deals with the fact that there are two sides to every story, but at the same time it was completely different from that one.
"Fates and Furies" is a story told from two perspectives: Lotto's and Mathilde's who are secretly married when they are 22. We then follow them in their marriage as they grow up, and we get to read about all their insecurities and their strength in each other.
I think this book was brilliant because it kept me guessing till the very last page. Lauren Groff is a very talented writer who has created a story that speaks about life and love, and even though I'm not married I devoured every page of it because it was hugely interesting! I see why this was Obama's favourite book of 2015, and I'm definitely convinced to pick up Lauren Groff's other books in the future...
Profile Image for Melanie.
Author 7 books1,217 followers
May 17, 2016
"Even from her impossibly high starting point, Lauren Groff just keeps getting better and better. Her debut novel, “The Monsters of Templeton” (2008); her stirring story collection, “Delicate Edible Birds” (2010); and my favorite book of 2012, “Arcadia ” — all demonstrated her exquisite style and tough, heartbreaking compassion. But her new novel, “Fates and Furies,” is a clear-the-ground triumph. Spanning decades, oceans and the whole economic scale from indigence to opulence, this novel holds within its grasp the story of one extraordinary marriage. Not yet 40, Groff nonetheless captures the complicated ways love blesses, transforms and, yes, deceives us over many years. (...) Swelling with a contrapuntal symphony of passions, “Fates and Furies” is that daring novel that seems to reach too high — and then somehow, miraculously, exceeds its own ambitions."
Ron Charles in the Washington Post


It's hard to pin down exactly what Lauren Groff managed to do here but one can only sit back and think hard on what just happened to you once you finish reading this truly stunning novel. Similarly to my experiences with "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay", "American Pastoral", "The Corrections", "The Interestings", "Station Eleven" and "The Woman Upstairs", I had goose bumps after reading the first pages of "Fates and Furies" and wanted to live in that creation forever.

The depth and levels of understanding at work in our lives, the subterranean currents running beneath our feet, the invisible lines of randomness and chance crisscrossing in our midst, the past informing the present, the inner life feeding the one we present to others, the ocean that sometimes lies between the two, the elemental, character-defining events of our youth perpetually tinting our actions. This book contains multitudes.

The themes are big and bold, yet rooted in the finite and delicate details of the everyday. The intimate is brought to life with such precision and uniqueness. With cruelty and tenderness. With cunning and smartness. The construction is daring and ambitious and wild. It will leave you breathless and grateful. Be ready for Part 2 and its astonishing "Furies"...

Mathilde, oh Mathilde, I will never forget you.

And what can one say about the writing? Prose that sings and soars and melts like butter on your tongue. Visceral and poetic and visually evocative. An absolute dream.

What a f***ing trip. (Please excuse my language)
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,118 followers
March 12, 2016
I am not ashamed to say that this book surprised me. I had read one previous novel by Groff and felt rather ambivalent about it (Arcadia) but she is one friend's favorite author and then the book was a finalist for the National Book Award - the fates would have been furious had I not given it a try. Har har.

I am also a bit of a sucker for a well written novel about marriage, a real look at marriage, the hard parts, the hidden parts, the mistakes, the journey. This is about that for sure. Everything else it is about I want to put behind a spoiler to save the experience for people who would like to discover it on their own.

I did get a review copy of this novel through Edelweiss but a combination of not realizing I had been approved and dragging my feet meant that I read it after it came out. My library has a copy on the way! Many thanks to the publishers who allow a glimpse.

We discussed it on Episode 053 of the Reading Envy podcast.
Profile Image for Blaine.
782 reviews660 followers
March 2, 2023
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.

Women in narratives were always defined by their relations.
Literary fiction often seems to generate mixed reviews on Goodreads. I don't read a lot of it myself, and have given my share of negative reviews to these books too.

But Fates and Furies sang to me. The writing is consistently excellent. I cannot stress that enough. The two main characters—Lotto and Mathilde—are richly drawn. The story is well-told. It's chronological in the first half, as we get Lotto's perspective on the events of their marriage. With that view complete, in the second half we get Mathilde's perspective as clarifying commentary, upsetting what we thought we knew through both the content delivered as well as by bouncing around with time-jumps.

Fates and Furies is not a perfect book. Some of the late twists seemed rather far fetched. Both characters are fairly unlikeable and have flaws that make it difficult to extrapolate their story into a commentary on marriage generally. But there are truths in this book, exaggerated perhaps, about the limits of what one person can ever really know about another. And did I mention the writing? A great book, and a must read.
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
December 31, 2019
The tale is so beautifully crafted, with the climax occurring right dab in the middle of it--both an innovation and a feat. Getting both parts of the marriage is a privilege we are afforded as readers. And what a magnificent telling of it! L. Groff is a master of prose, of feeling. We see these demigods suffer & wade through a magnificent wave of contemporary life. I guess I may sense a disconnect between these American beauties and myself. Both of our lovers have homes that shun them, and this seems to be the American tale: making your destiny when the one you were born with is forfeit. (Or, when you are white [Floridian, or Parisian] and your privilege must be earned...)
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews554 followers
December 29, 2017
For readers who love the theatre, have studied Greek classics and mythologies, who know which luminaries won Tony Awards this year, who titillate at hints of illicit acts of homosexuality by straights, or know the works of Shakespeare intimately, go ahead and follow the accolades. Read. Enjoy. I respect you literary art lovers but am not one of you.

This double set of stories, one apiece about the man and wife, going from childhood through their mid 40s, seemingly took forever for me to get through, despite it being lush and full of depth. The author can turn a phrase, certainly.

Despite the lovely description of the husband Lotto's childhood in Florida (which utterly enthralled me), my interest in the first section of the book faltered terribly when he hit the age of about 30. Seriously, this book covers 40 years of his life and then of hers - without some interesting twists, this thing was a ship going under water fast for me, and having to read the multiple plays-within-the-novel made me wish for a faster drowning. Reading the opera-within-the-novel?? Omg. Pass the poison. And I actually love opera! Unfortunately, because of my general disinterest in stage plays, Greek mythology (many character names are twists on the gods' names), and the (IMO) shallowness of the characters, I got to know the husband but never really cared about him.

The wife's half of the book was (thank the gods) slightly more interesting, but the "big" surprises left me shrugging. Meh. Who cares?

I did not like Lotto or Mathilde and found them ridiculously self absorbed - with the exception of their interest in having sex with each other. I really wish I had this book on Kindle so I could do a search on various phrases relating to intercourse to see how often it came up. Pun intended. Maybe I should rewrite this review with even more sophomoric sexual innuendos in every paragraph to give you a feel for the book - they were everywhere. An example is that Lotto the husband and playwright wrote the lyrics to an opera based on Antigone (who in myths was sentenced to eternal life) but wants to call it Anti-Gonad. Sexual references all over the place. If you're 19 or uber lusty, you may like it.

Seriously, I must have bumped into sex at least once every 45 minutes for the 35 hours it took me to listen to this. Sex became so boring and so commonplace that it was akin to a tired waitress emptying the coffee filter, rinsing, and refilling it at an all night truck stop. The bottomless cup, yet always weak.

All in all, I just kept seeing the author trying too hard behind her scenes and her (to me) shallow characters. I believe every character, minor or not, should be built like a pearl from the inside out. Hers felt hollow and many one dimensional. The author projected herself as very affected or pretentious to me, not just by writing herself in as a side character in the story, but with the whole idea of human scent.

Im sorry, but do you honestly know anybody who smells of persimmons? Have you ever even smelled a persimmon? Can you smell lavender or stone dust or ice or roses or cinnamon or the ocean in the skin of someone - no, not their shampoo or deodorant or lotion or perfume, but their very being? Do you seriously think everybody has an identifiable odor? Such pretentiousness. But I guess that is theatre, dahling. Not my cup of tea. Writing:very good. My enjoyment:minimal
3 stars
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