I’d like to think of myself as an avid reader. I’ve always been that way and like most things, there are times where I do a ton of it and times I don’t. When I was working with authors on a regular basis, I was mostly dedicated to reading their books and it didn’t leave much time for me to read anything else. Although, I really enjoyed many of my clients’ books, it was really hard to give an objective opinion and review. I was by no means a part of the early stages of development. By the time it made it into my hands, it was to be published as is.
In thinking about how I’d like to share my book reviews, I also thought it would be a fun challenge to my creativity to create paintings inspired by the book covers. I’m by no means a talented painter, but I like the idea of just practicing the art form for my own benefit. This is also my chance to combine some things I want to do more of, read, share, and paint. So, my first book is Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.
I heard tons of hype around this book and I hate to say that’s why I put it on my to-read list, but if I’m being honest… Also, I joined a local book club and this was the monthly pick, so I went for it.
The book follows the 20 ish year marriage of Lotto and Mathilde Satterwhite. The first half of the book comes from the perspective of Lotto and the second from Mathilde. Lotto is an actor turned successful playwright disillusioned by his whiny need for genius and attention. Mathilde is a shell of a person until the second half when we discover all her background, undertones and true self. Trouble is now that we know her, we wish we didn’t. This novel is complicated both in style and timeline. Nothing is as it seems, especially the characters.
Groff’s style is something that takes some getting used to. Her sentence structure can be choppy and cluttered which left me re-reading passages over just to make sure that I understood the over-written and over-complicated prose. Maybe I’m just not that sophisticated of a writer, or reader for that matter, but the pretentious nature of the novel turned me off at times. The explicit use of the metaphor just came on too strong many times leaving me trying to decipher the code instead of connecting to the story. For example, their pet dog’s name is God. I couldn’t figure out why Groff would choose such a name. It felt as if she was trying to communicate some deeper level of meaning, but I found it distracting and I couldn’t really determine what she was trying to say with her choices. It just cluttered the text for me.
Also, the choppy sequence and bouncing around in a timeline can be a great literary tactic, but in this case it seemed overused, unexpected and sometimes left me more focused on trying to figure out where we were in the timeline rather than focusing on the story.
I also had a really hard time connecting to the characters. I think it might be something to do with the fact that I simply didn’t like them or that they just didn’t seem like real people in real situations to me. There were many times and circumstances where things seemed so unrealistic, that it took me out of the story. This seemed as if the characters were living in some distorted version of reality. Something that lives along side our world and mirrors it, but with strange differences that you can’t quite put your finger on.
Lotto was more of a caricature to me. His innocence and artist nature seemed grotesquely exaggerated and the first half of the book from his perspective had me bored to tears. Especially the sections where we were given the actual script to his plays. In all honesty, I mostly skimmed over those parts. I love Shakespeare and have spent a great deal of time around the theatre and I wasn’t prepared or motivated to pull apart the symbolism and undertones of Greek tragedy that sat in these lines. Maybe they added a layer of understanding for others, but they didn’t do anything for me.
Mathilde was far more interesting and the second half from her perspective developed the story and filled so many holes that the first half left behind. She was plain cruel and many of her character traits and actions were contradictory, which seemed less of an effort to develop a dynamic character and more of a gross inconsistency. However, she made me curious, got my attention and kept me reading.
It was hard to believe that these two were happily married for so long and none of their secrets, flaws, and past came up. Their story felt more like blind infatuation rather than love. There was no intimacy between them, just devastating secrets. It was also hard to believe that after we’re introduced to Mathilde’s utter cruelty and hardness, she would give Lotto years of adoration and self-sacrifice while also intentionally hurting him in the meantime. It seems as Groff was trying to paint a love story so strong that we accept you could and possibly should become someone else only in the presence of our spouse. We don’t lie, we just omit the truth which in the end is meant to protect them. This is such a Hollywood, washed up version of marriage and I can’t begin to share my distaste for this version of love. Also, there is SO MUCH SEX. Not that that’s a problem in and of itself, but the gross depictions of sexuality and lust left me with all the eye rolls.
Some of my favorite parts of this novel was the backstory of Lotto and Mathilde. I appreciated knowing where they came from as it helped to develop them much farther than the plot alone. I just wonder where the plot would have stood without these sections. I think it would have fallen flat to me. There was nothing to carry it throughout the entire novel and the best parts were when secrets were reveled in the last pages. Makes me wonder why I bothered to read all that prose only to be left with the final explanations which felt rushed and only provided in a need to tie the whole thing up in a nice bow.
The first half felt so dull at times that I was actually paying more attention to the page number rather than what I was reading. I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish it or if I could hold my interest from one page to the next, but I kept going. I’m happy I did though as the second half turned out to be much more of a page-turner and I was surprised at how quickly I moved through it without page counting and making internal reading goals for myself. Overall, I’m glad that I did in fact finish the book. If it wasn’t for the book club, I’m not sure I would have made it.
This book isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. It certainly isn’t a commercial hit and it took me some time to get into it. We get it, Groff is a remarkable writer, but I’m not really into books that beat you over the head stylistically. However, there were parts of the novel I enjoyed and it certainly made me think about some of the major themes such as love, lust, and infatuation; a parent’s role in the life of their child; life-altering secrets; and of course marriage.
Did you read it? What did you think? Id love to know what you thought and if you think I should give Groff’s other works a try.
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