Awards: National Book Award Finalist (2015), Kirkus Prize Nominee for Fiction (Finalist) (2015), Amazon’s 2015 Best Book of the Year
Fates and Furies unfolds and reveals itself like a piece of art. It is so multi-layered, deeply complex and philosophical that it left me spellbound, awed, & utterly impressed with this author. It is a sexy, brilliant, exquisitely written novel that pivots around the intensely bright love and marriage between two people, who seem so different, but love each other so fiercely. The husband, Lotto, is exuberant and narcissistic, but alternates between extreme highs and lows in his moods: between mania, with extreme passion and love for others and creativity; and depression with suicidal thoughts. The wife, Mathilde, is so loving and devoted to her husband, but also has a cold, calculating, manipulative side that she conceals. There are striking differences between the two: he is always bathed in light and she in darkness.
Appearances can be deceptive in his book. Mathilde feels that she is evil to her core, which stems from her childhood memory of being implicated at the age of 4 in the death of her younger brother. Lotto, however, saw kindness at the very core of Mathilde. There are so many twists and turns in this novel, making it an exciting read, one that keeps you thinking, guessing, and questioning what you know about the characters and people in general. It is told in two parts: the first, “the fates”, is from Lotto’s perspective and the second, “the furies” is Mathilde’s perspective. The two halves read very differently complimenting the protagonist whose story it is. Everyone is bathed in warmth and light from Lotto’s perspective and you begin the see the evil hidden side of the characters revealed when reading Mathilde’s story. You also realize how she is the bedrock of his success, his glory, his glamorous life.
Lauren Groff’s command of the English language (as well as French) is incredible. The inlaid humor, wordplay, many layers of imagery, stories within stories, parallel characters, and juxtapositions of character traits are fascinating. It was a pure delight to read. I recommend this book to anyone who loves high quality literature. All the pieces come together perfectly like a puzzle, but it is never trite. I also love the autobiographical element: in the afterward the author speaks to how she told her friend that she would marry her now husband of many years after her first glimpse of him.
While reading the first half of the book, I keep being reminded of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides which was a book about a couple who marries right out of college. It is revealed that he is bipolar in the course of getting to know him.
- How did you feel about Antoinette sending Lotto off to boarding school?
- There are several suicides that occur within this novel. What do you think their significance is?
- Chollie accuses Mathilde of being the “predator” and Lotto, the “prey” in their relationship. What do you think he means by this? Do you agree? Is it the reverse as Lotto suggests?
- What do you make of Antoinette’s transformation from beautiful mermaid to “sucker fish gobblemouthing the glass?” What has caused her to change so? Why is she always in an aquarium?
- Why do you think that Lotto thinks back to his relationship with Gwennie on his way to see Leo?
- Did you think Lotto was a misogynist when regarding his comments about the difference between genders? Why do you think that Mathilde walked out?
- Why do you think Mathilde did not want to have children?
- If Lotto and Mathilde had children, how do you imagine it would have affected their marriage and love for each other?
- Why did Chollie never tell Lotto that Gwennie’s death was a suicide?
- Mathilde thinks that by becoming a wife she became invisible. Is this what she wanted?
- When Mathilde moves to the United States as a young girl, she changes her name. Is she pretending to be someone else from that point forward? Why else might she be changing her name?
- How do you feel the plays add or detract from the novel?
- Why would Land steal “The Springs” manuscript? What was it about that play that spoke to him?
- Is Mathilde a “pathological truth-teller” as Lotto accuses her?
- What do you make of the letters exchanged between Mathilde and Antoinette?
- Why do you think Phoebe Delmar finally comes around to writing a good review of one of Lotto’s plays?
- Do you think that Mathilde maliciously tripped her brother to his death down the stairs as has been told to her all her life or is her more buried vision of the story the truth? Do you believe that a 4 year old can be that intentionally evil?
- What do you suppose the author’s view of marriage is?