Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fates and Furies

Title:  Fates and Furies
Author:  Lauren Groff
Publication Information:  Riverhead Books. 2015. 400 pages.
ISBN:  1594634475 / 978-1594634475

Book Source:  I read this book based on the publicity it is receiving.

Opening Sentence:  "A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain's sudden sweeping."

Favorite Quote:  "Tell me the difference between tragedy and comedy ... Solemnity versus humor. Gravity versus lightness ... False ... A trick. There's no difference. It's a question of perspective. Storytelling is a landscape, and tragedy is comedy is drama. It simply depends on how you frame what you're seeing."

In mythology, the Fates are a group of goddesses weaving the destiny of men. The Furies or Erinyes are the goddesses of justice and vengeance. Put this symbolism into the context of a marriage, and it tells you the direction this story is to take.

The main characters of the book are Lotto and Mathilde. Lotto, of course, is a game of chance. The meaning of the name Mathilde in French is strong in war or battle. Put this symbolism into the context of a marriage, and it tells your the direction of this story.

Here is the face of this story. Lotto and Mathilde meet in college when they are both students at Vassar. The attraction and love is almost instantaneous. They marry right out of college, despite his family's wishes and their friends' warnings. Much to everyone's surprise, the marriage lasts, and decades laters, they appear as loving a couple as at the very start.

A wholesome vision on the surface, right? As we know, the fact is that things are never as they appear on the surface, particularly in relationships. The premise of this book is a strong one. Every marriage has two perspectives. What you see and feel depends on the vision you bring to a situation and on what you decide to see and what you decide to overlook.

Part of me wants to applaud the premise and the symbolism of this book. Unfortunately, most of me is still cringing from the details and form this story takes.

The first half of the book - Fates - is the story from Lotto's perspective. Told through a set of parties the couple hosts and through the plays that Lotto ultimately writes, the book paints a picture of a rather passive bohemian lifestyle of parties, friends, struggles, and successes. Parts read like erotica, for Lotto and Mathilde seem to communicate only through sex. A lot of it comes across as pretentious - for example, a play that morphs Antigone into "Go;" a mother her children call "Muvva;" and a dog named "God." Really?!

The second half of the book - Furies - is from Mathilde's perspective. This part is less straight forward for it is more her reflections through present and different parts of her past. It is more developed than the first part of the book; in fact, Mathilde's story reveals so much more of Lotto's past than the first half of the book. However, bizarre is the word that comes to mind for Mathilde's story. Lies, deceit, revenge, sociopathic tendencies, prostitution, abortion, and murder are just some of the cringe-worthy factors of Mathilde's life past and present.

Books that make me think, books that take on difficult topics, and books that make me uncomfortable are often the best possible reads. At some level, this book does all of that. Unfortunately, more than anything though, this books makes me want to walk away, shed the unpleasantness, and wish I could unsee some of the images drawn in this book. I am left with an impression of a book that tries way too hard to make some philosophical point but, at the end, seems to me a pretentious show with no point in sight. This book is memorable, but, for me, unfortunately in all the wrong ways.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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