I had heard from several people that the first section was super slow, so I was quite surprised by how quickly I fell into Groff’s writing. I didn’t love her last novel, Arcadia, so I wasn’t expecting to be wowed, but was pretty taken by the style right off the bat.
I couldn’t even finish Arcadia, so I’m glad that I didn’t realize that she was the author of that until right now.
I fell into the style as well but I simply didn’t find Lotto to be interesting enough to carry as much of the book as he did. I was close to stopping as I reached the end of his section. In fact, overall, this novel was the opposite of A Little Life—it was the women who fascinated me. Lotto’s mother, his sister, his aunt…I wanted more of all of them.
Based on what I heard from people I really expected Lotto’s section to be a snoozefest, but it actually held my attention quite well. Sure, he was one dimensional and completely static, but there were still some interesting parts in that section.
Can we talk about Mathilde? For me, she was when Groff moved from great writing into amazing. That a character could be so loathsome and somehow not. She was a brilliant way of illustrating the dualities that exist in all of us AND the mysteries of marriage, of any relationship.
She’s a brilliantly complex character. I totally agree with you about her many facets, and I love that she kind of turns the idea of the strictly “unlikable woman” character on its head. It’s so refreshingly realistic to see a character who is well loved and talked about by her friends, who keeps secrets from her husband but desperately loves him, etc.
Agree, agree, agree! She was so deep and wide you could just fall into her character. By the end of the novel I was ready to forgive her pretty much anything. I also found it a stark reminder of how lonely we all truly are and how we can never really know anyone completely.
What did you think of the split style? Was it necessary? Did it enhance the book?
I definitely think it was necessary in the sense that it would have been a very different book otherwise. Groff’s writing is beautiful, but I’m not sure the story would have been nearly as compelling without everything Mathilde reveals in the second half separate from Lotto’s perception.
I hate to say it, but I agree again, I think that not only was the split style necessary, I also think that the narrative wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if Lotto and Mathilde had been swapped out every other chapter either. No. It needed to be two completely different sections, just like Groff structured it.
I have so many questions: was Mathilde evil? Did Lotto save her, make her a better person?
I don’t think that she was evil. I think she was a selfish, unthinking child, like many children are selfish but I also think that past the point of killing her brother (I’d almost argue accidentally) that she becomes unloved. Those that are unloved are destined to be unhappy, especially in literature. I don’t know that Lotto “saved” her or made her a better person—part of me wants to argue that she saved herself and just needed a reason to do it. She had been beat down by so little love in her life that she jumped on Lotto and was determined to love as she had never been loved. I think it could have been anyone.
I need to look this up but my Greek history geek of a husband says “fates and furies” comes from Euripides. Might be interesting to see the meaning- beyond the obvious that Lotto felt Mathilde was his fate and Mathilde was a fury.
Fates and Furies are staples in both Greek and Roman mythology and literature. You see them in Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Inferno, Homer’s Iliad…they’re everywhere. I haven’t read Euripides, so I looked that up and found this, in reference to his tragedy Orestes:
“Orestes himself is presented as rather psychologically unstable, with the Furies which pursue him reduced to phantoms of his half-repentant, delirious imagination.”
Well then. I could use that sentence to talk about both Lotto and Mathilde all day long!
The nods to Greek history and literature were so great. I loved the stylistic choice to insert the omniscient narrator in the brackets, and it felt like a calling back to narration in Greek plays and poetry.
Yes! I loved that too, especially considering Lotto as an actor and playwright.
Not just Greek! She gave us Dante, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Gertrude Stein, even an opera by Rubinstein. The references were endless, and it wasn’t mere name-dropping. Each reference offered a deeper meaning to the story. And those brackets, loved that! Icing on the cake.
There is the whole marriage component as well. When I saw Groff she talked for a bit about how she is deeply ambivalent about the institution of marriage despite being married. Was Mathilde changed by her marriage? How much do we share in a marriage? And if we want to get batshit crazy—does your spouse know all your secrets?
I absolutely believe Mathilde was changed by her marriage. Maybe even more by the people that came along with her marriage, especially Sallie and Rachel. She was ready to ruin Chollie, but when she learned of Land, I think their kindness (and her love for Lotto) changed that.
And still, the book ends up as a Gone Girl comparison. The first thing I thought was that it pretty much confirms we’ll never hear the end of the Gone Girl comparison.
Publishers need to stop with the Gone Girl comparisons. It’s almost offensive in this case, because Fates and Furies is in an entirely different league. I’m reading along and all the while thinking, this is literary fiction! This is literature as art! Beautiful writing, impeccable structure, complex characters, and endless layers.
I missed the hype of the Gone Girl comparison. I see it at an extremely surface level. But I agree that this is deep and complex art. This isn’t just a throwaway read for an airplane.
100% agree with feeling like you could pin down literary fiction while reading. What’s been shocking for me is seeing people liken it to erotica—is there really that much sex?
I was especially watchful for the sex since I read it after you gals and there had been a little discussion about some of you not even remembering any sex in it. There definitely are swaths of eroticism throughout the novel. That being said, there’s never anything graphic and it’s all quite tastefully done. No doubt, there are erotic parts, but does that make it erotica? No, I don’t think so. There’s too much else going on.
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How did you feel about Fates and Furies, readers? Were you more drawn to one part of the book than the other? What did you take away from the story of Lotto and Mathilde’s marriage?