Lotto and Mathilde are college seniors at Vassar when they meet at a party and their connection is explosive – they marry soon after meeting. The union confuses Lotto’s friends and family, who think Mathilde is mysterious and averagely attractive, and are perplexed because she seemingly has no past. Mathilde is considered cold, a stark contrast to Lotto’s charming and boisterous nature.
At its core, this is a meditation on marriage and the perspectives that two people bring to the institution. The first part, Fates, tells the husband’s point of view. The second part, Furies, tells the wife’s perspective. As is expected, the two accounts are radically different. Lotto views the marriage as largely positive – romantic and erotic and unparalleled. Mathilde, perhaps as indicated by the section title, thinks less of the marriage. Readers become privy to her bottled anger that seeps out at calculated moments. Groff’s thesis seems to be that marriage, while nice, is riddled with secrets and founded on the understanding that you will never truly know your spouse.
Quarantine is finally allowing me to tackle my backlist, which means I finally go to Fates and Furies and in truth, this is a book I bought in 2015 because I thought the cover was stunning and some of my favorite bloggers were recommending it. In 2015, I was a junior in college and when I read the first chapter, I thought, “not for me” and put it down. This is an extremely divisive book—a love or a hate for many. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that hated the language, deeming is too flowery or overdone. I think the use of overwrought language, the grandiose nods to Greek tragedies, and the pretentious language is wholly intentional. The language of the novel mimics the tone of the marriage.
Groff’s writing is metaphor-heavy and I found it beautiful and poignant most of the time, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with the grim outlook on marriage. Groff is a talented writer and I see why this book is polarizing, but ultimately, I enjoyed reading it.