Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff was a book club read of mine back before my wedding. It’s one that I would recommend but it doesn’t join the rank of books I can’t live without. It’s been compared to Gone Girl (which I have not read) and The Girl on the Train (which I have read). The Girl on the Train was a page turner for sure, but I hated all the characters. They were all terrible people. Fates and Furies wasn’t quite as fast paced (totally different writing style) and the characters were slightly more likeable. Fates and Furies goes deep into the question of how much should be told - and what should be hidden - in order for a marriage to be happy. In the case of Lancelot and Mathilde Satterwhite, secrets were more important than the truth.
Warning - SPOILERS BELOW in the summary and random thoughts!
Fates and Furies followed a married couple over decades of their relationship. Lancelot "Lotto" and Mathilde met in college and had a whirlwind romance that turned into a marriage everyone envied. Lotto was promiscuous (pre-Mathilde), he was charming, his family worshipped him, he was talented - but owed much of his success to others, a fact he cheerfully ignored. Mathilde was a mystery; her family nonexistent for most of the novel. Regardless, the two were crazy about each other. Lotto wanted the perfect family and with him, Mathilde felt safe for the first time in her life. When they were young, they struggled to pay the bills but ultimately rose to success and fame. Fates, the first half of the novel, told the story from Lotto’s perspective but it wasn’t until Mathilde’s Furies that things got interesting.
Groff's prose took some adjusting to, it’s one of those things you either love or hate. I enjoyed it 90% of the time. There were moments it was a bit much or I thought the way she described things was a little gross. Sometimes I had to reread sections, not because they were extremely intelligent, but because Groff was overly vague trying to SEEM extremely intelligent. Her metaphors got a little convoluted at times. And sometimes I appreciated the inclusion of Lotto’s plays, sometimes not. The Greek mythology references would probably have been better received by someone who knows more about mythology, but I just moved past them.
It irks me in books when there's a situation that can be avoided by the couple just sitting down and talking. So Lotto found out that he wasn't the only person Mathilde had ever been with. Okay, but did he ask her about it? Up until that they had been generally very happy...so couldn't they talk? “Hey babe, I learned a little about your past today and I wanted to come to you before making assumptions. Were you with this man before we were married or after?” How hard would that have been?!
The majority of Mathilde’s half was satisfying. Questions were answered about events that were glossed over at the first half. I said majority because there was one twist that felt haphazard to me. I didn’t think it added to the chasm between the couple at all for Lotto to have a kid out there somewhere. Yes, we knew throughout the book he wanted a child and it became slowly obvious that Mathilde didn’t and was purposefully sabotaging the efforts. But her actions in stopping pregnancy were enough, I think, to show the disconnect. Lotto’s kid (by then grown man) seemed like an afterthought. He didn't affect the marriage because Lotto never learned about him.
Mathilde’s past - and present - was rather twisted. Her college education was paid for because she spent her weekends as a sex slave to some freak who would force her to eat off the floor. She had her eye out for Lotto because she knew his family was rich, it just worked out great for her that she actually did love him. She blackmailed a family member into financially supporting Lotto’s plays when it became clear that writing, not acting, was where his talent lay. You can’t really blame her for the childhood troubles she endured: an accident with her brother, a prostitute grandmother, and a criminal uncle. But as an adult, her actions were all her own and Lotto truly did not know who he was married to.
“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.”
Would they have been so happily married if Lotto had ever known the truth? I don’t think so. I think he was meant to be sheltered in his marriage; he wanted the world to revolve around him and Mathilde was just fine with doing that to maintain her sense of security. There were moments I was genuinely moved by their relationship, and I know they needed the facade to be happy. The truth would never have set these two free.
This book was a 3.5/5 for me. The language was a nice change from the norm. Mathilde’s actions were dark enough to intrigue me without making me completely hate the character and her half was far more interesting that Lotto’s. At 400 pages it's not a quick read, but if you like dramatic books or thrillers (or dramatic thrillers) try this one!