Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies is a 390 page fiction novel published by Riverhead Books in September 2015.

Fates and Furies coverI wanted to review Fates and Furies because of the acclaim it received this year and the fact that I think it’s highly overrated. Normally I avoid writing negative reviews because I know each book has its audience, even if I’m not part of it. I felt compelled to write this review because while the novel is touted as being masterful and literary, the pretension of it makes it my least favorite book of 2015.

The plot revolves around the marriage of Lotto (Lancelot) Satterwhite and his lovely (okay, interesting-looking) French wife, Mathilde. They get married after two weeks of dating, have rad parties, pay lots of bills even though only Mathilde has a job, keep dark secrets, and do all sorts of other marriage-y things. The first part of the book, Fates, is told through Lotto’s point of view and sets up their perfect marriage. The second, Furies, is told through Mathilde’s point of view and breaks it down into the nitty gritty.

After about page 50, I started asking myself, “How long should I read on when I’m not enjoying a book?” My new answer is 50 pages. I finished the novel because it was so esteemed that I felt it had to get good soon. I thought the same thing at page 120, 200, and just after halfway through when it switches perspectives from the affluent and clueless Lotto to his intriguing wife, Mathilde.

Fates and Furies definitely has good bits—it takes a deep look into a “happy” and “perfect” marriage and shows the secrets and manipulations that lurk in the shadows. It’s just that the good bits are either hidden in the wordy narrative and only shine through in the last third of the book. Here is where we get plot twists and some writing that isn’t horribly pretentious (some, mind you, not all). While the Fates part of the book is littered with Lotto’s “genius” plays, of which he pops one out every year not once realizing that Mathilde edits the hell out of them, Furies is thankfully less filled with mythical and Shakespearean name drops (yes, I get it already, he’s a genius playwright).

Besides the marital insights, this book had almost no redeemable qualities. Sex scenes—cringeworthy, all—were occasionally not even recognizable as sex until the scene was over. Character personalities were either lacking severely or extremely distasteful. Lotto was an arrogant and pretentious privileged white male that would get depressed if even one person didn’t like him. Mathilde had a secret past that apparently didn’t come up once in the decades that the two spent together. It was all unrealistic and generally miserable to read.

Honestly, I only pushed forward because it was so well spoken for (that and I felt a deep anger at the book because it was thwarting me. I resented that I might not finish this library book on time, so I hate-finished it in four days). I can see why some might enjoy the book, but it was not my cup of tea. SO if you like books about marriage; books about pretentious, arrogant white guys; books that weave Shakespeare and myth into everything; or books that make you think, “Really? He SHUCKS her? Sexually?” then this book is for you.

TITLE: Fates and Furies
AUTHOR: Lauren Groff
PAGES: 390
ALSO WROTE: Arcadia, Monsters of Templeton
SORT OF LIKE: Landline, Gone Girl
FIRST LINE: “A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain’s sudden sweeping.”
FAVORITE LINE: “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.”


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