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Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies

Wow. I read this entire novel on the train home from the Lake District, and I was gobsmacked. That seems like the only appropriate word for my reactions on Lauren Groff's novel Fates and Furies. I borrowed the book from my library on my kindle on a whim, without really reading a synopsis or any reviews. I just thought the title looked interesting and it was marked a finalist for the 2015 national book award (this list also steered me in the right direction with Adam Johnson's Fortune Smiles). Another advantage to reading this book on my kindle was that I was entirely shocked when I thought I reached the end of the novel and clicked on progress to learn I was only halfway through.

Fates and Furies is the story of Fate through the eyes of the husband, Lotto, and Fury through the eyes of the wife, Mathile. When I reached the end of Lotto's narration, I thought the story had ended... oh, was I wrong (this is not spoiling anything, have no fear). There was a lot I loved about this novel, but I think my favorite was the bracketed asides of the narrator, who gives an omnipresent perspective. For example, Chapter 2 begins (again, I promise I won't spoil you):

 A unity, marriage, made of discrete parts. Lotto was loud and full of light; Mathilde, quiet, watchful. Easy to believe that his was the better half, the one that set the tone. It’s true that everything he’d lived so far had steadily built toward Mathilde. That if his life had not prepared him for the moment she walked in, there would have been no them. The drizzle thickened to drops. They hurried across the last stretch of beach. [Suspend them there, in the mind’s eye: skinny, young, coming through dark toward warmth, flying over the cold sand and stone. We will return to them. For now, he’s the one we can’t look away from. He is the shining one.]

In an interview, Groff speaks of these bracketed asides and how she originally intended the novel to be split into two. The asides were what linked them together and allowed some glimpse into the "truth" of what was happening. The NYT Book review writes, "If you approach Fates and Furies without great expectations, you’re much likelier to appreciate it for the bumpy but alluring effort that it is, and even for its touch of evil." The story is this mix of raw emotion and suspense and wives of playwrights and Greek tragedy/comedy and I don't quite have the words to describe it and I also don't want to tell you more because I think you should be absorbed in the story on your own [go read it without googling the plot]. Rating: ★★★★★

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