It took me less than 2 days to devour Lauren Groff's third novel, Fates and Furies! Groff's dissection of a 24-year long marriage (or more deserving title; partnership) between two fresh-out-of-college 22 year olds Lotto and Mathilde "living morally, cleanly, living in love" (Chapter 4 (Fate)) is apt, glorious and inspiring, to say the least. Groff tampers with the idea that great marriages are ridden with secrets, omissions, truths left unsaid. A clear deviation from the age-old notion that transparency is the true bond to a successful union. The novel is made whole by bringing 2 broken parts - each starting afresh with its own Chapter 1 and a new perspective - together with an omnipresent authorial voice in square brackets. Groff explores gender biases, power, sexuality, classism, among other provocative themes in this stellar novel. It came as no surprise that Fates and Furies featured time & again on 'must-read' lists by Stylist, Glamour Magazine, Emerald Street, as well as being longlisted for the National Book Awards, and I was honoured to find it among my burgeoning pile of review titles ahead of its release this month. So without further adieu...
"Success...is finding your greatness" Chapter 3 (Fate)
"Life was rich with possibility. Or life was possibly rich" Chapter 4 (Fates)
FATES - Narrated by Lancelot Satterwhite aka Lotto, this half of the book is light-hearted, whimsical and hopeful. Doted upon first by his parents, and then by his wife, Lotto never experiences the hardship of adulthood/ manhood, and this is expertly conveyed in Groff's writing (but we wont come to recognise this fact until much later). Strings pulled behind the scenes and sacrifices made in his absence, Lotto lived as a child all his life. Youthful exuberance blinds him from defeat as his acting dreams post-college leave his wife as the sole breadwinner, and his ego crushed, until a night of genius revelation where his true purpose arises in self-pity's wake. Vanity, ambition, and fame deafen failure, loneliness and egotism. Pride is restored, and fills the cracks in their marriage. Much like in life, when we find our true calling, all the trials, tests, and struggles of our past can be viewed as 'character building' in retrospect.
"The wife is the dramaturge of the marriage, the one whose work is essential to what is produced, even if her contributions are never directly recognised...there's an essential difference in genders that isn't politically correct to mention" Chapter 7 (Fates)
A RAAW Theatre production at The Actors' Centre, Tristan Bates Theatre
"the rudiments: the stories, the moral rigidity, the mania for purity" Chapter 2 (Fates)
FURIES - Narrated by Mathilde, this half of the book is dark, explorative, and starkly truthful. We see fact for once was broad-brushed as truth. Characters that once shone from within, are blindly thrust into the criminal spotlight. Mathilde directs the play of their love stories enigmatically, pedastilising her self-sacrifice as matryr-like, showcasing the ways she dedicated her life to the advancement of Lotto's. Our lives are much the same, with maturity shatters the illusion of the allure of adulthood. What we once saw as castrating actions of parents, can be considered noble in retrospect. Groff contrasts Lotto's privilege with the harsh reality of his life behind the scenes, the strings that needed to be pulled in order for his success ("Lotto was tall, smart, rich. [White.] Boys like him were meant to be leaders" Chapter 2 (Fates)) to appear seamless. Ironically all puppet masters were indeed mistresses, from his Muvva to his wife, Lotto "was born wealthy, white and male"Chapter 3 (Fates) and knew not what struggle meant if it smacked him dead in the face; his "privilege is what lets [him] take risks" Chapter 5 (Fates). Unfortunately, we are not all ascribed such a luxury and must work as hard as the latter half of the novel to reap reward in our adult lives.
"Grief is for the strong, who use it as fuel for burning" Chapter 2 (Fates)
View of St Paul's Cathedral from Madison's Bar, London
"despite her politics and smarts, she had become a wife, and wives, as we all know, are invisible" Chapter 7 (Furies)
Fates and Furies courts its reader and rips our expectations apart, when the layers of truth peel back to reveal our notion of reality, a farce. The thirst for deeper discovery as fate gives way to fury, love for calculation, and ambition for luck, leaves the reader famished at its conclusion. Much like life, what we perceive as truths when young, parade as hallucinations in adulthood. Ambitions and fairytales cast out and replaced with rejection letters and broken hearts. Lotto and Mathilde's love story seems illusionary yet somewhat ideal. Its an anti-thesis to a romance novel in this day & age, omitting wistful gazes for lustful glares, infidelity for devout faithfulness to monogamy. Yet, we see their perfect union shattered in the latter part by the rocks of humanity; flawed. Alas, we can seek solace in its length, its normacy; its imperfect perfection.
"If one might die at any moment, one must live" Chapter 2 (Fate) - Fate and Furies