“Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.” (Random House UK)
We first meet Lancelot, ‘Lotto’ for short, and Mathilde just after they have married and from there Fates and Furies is divided into two halves. The first is the life of Lotto and the marriage between he and Mathilde as he sees it; the second is the life of Mathilde and the marriage from her perspective.
Lotto’s story begins at the very beginning of his life. From the outset he is almost godlike and throughout the first half of the book it’s as though he perennially has a spotlight shining on him. From his first days his parents and aunt are convinced that he is destined for greatness and despite failing at his first choice of profession, he does eventually find success. I particularly enjoyed reading the early years of Lotto’s life. Groff writes them in much the same way that we would reflect on our own lives, sifting through years of memories and touching on important moments, but moving each one quickly to get to the next.
I found myself always thinking about Mathilde in the first half of the book and wondering what she was doing. In my mind she was ever present but just out of the spotlight that shines so brightly on Lotto and, as it turns out, there is a very good reason for this. As her own story unfolds in the latter half of the novel and we learn what makes her tick, it’s here that the truth of not only Mathilde herself lies, but also the truth of their marriage:
“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.”
Seeing the marriage from both perspectives was certainly eye-opening, and showed that the truth of something is whatever people make of it, regardless of whether it is the factual truth or not. Lotto’s perception of his marriage is blurred and appears to be the same as how people on the outside view it – perfect. But as the narrative shifts the focus to Mathilde, both their marriage and Mathilde herself take on a whole new shape completely. If Lotto was an actor, albeit an average one, then Mathilde was a stagehand – always there behind the scenes, unseen and doing the heavy lifting. Although their relationship is examined over a long period of time, it doesn’t get boring as can happen in such situations. Instead, we get to watch two people grow with each other, all with enough hints dropped here and there that what we see in Lotto’s half of the book only scratches the surface.
In all honesty I wasn’t that excited to read this and I was initially questioning why I even requested it from NetGalley. By the time I got to the end, all my early doubts had been banished and I can safely say this is one of the best new releases I’ve read this year – there is nothing to not like about this book. I’ve seen lots of people comparing it to Gone Girl and while I’m yet to read that book I’ve seen the film, so I do have a general idea of its plot. I can see where comparisons might be made but in reality I don’t think they are overly similar and I think it’s important that people don’t go into Fates and Furies with certain expectations. But regardless of whether they are similar or not, this is without doubt one of the best books this year and certainly deserving of the hype.