Book Reviews

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Teacher: “Tell me the difference between tragedy and comedy.”

(Students give answers)

“False…A Trick. There’s no difference. It’s a question of perspective. Storytelling is a landscape, and tragedy is comedy is drama. It simply depends on how you frame what you’re seeing.”

Fates and Furies had all the buzz before it’s release on September 15th. I knew from the synopsis of following a couple over twenty-four years was of interest to me. A “he said, she said” story with secrets, deception, love and vulnerability is not a new concept for a book. And yet, I wanted to read it. I had read just a few of the reviews starting to trickle in and then I stopped.

So what can I say about this book? Not much without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it. That doesn’t leave much for a review though. So I’ll tell you what I can and how it made me feel.

What this book isn’t:

  • Gone Girl. Not even close. I don’t know where that came from but I did see a few comparisons on Goodreads. And if there are some similarities (maybe a slim few) it’s not worth mentioning. You know, spoilers and all.
  • Erotica. Again, some comments said it was erotic and overly sexual. Well let’s see…the main characters, Lotto and Mathilde, are married for 24 years and yes they are intimate. Nothing shocking there. Anything that happened when they weren’t married and didn’t know each other…fair game.
  • Overly-written. Some would disagree but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Some almost didn’t finish it and that scared me going in, but I really thought the writing was first class.

What I liked about this book:

  • The writing was unbelievable! Writers like this confirm that I will never be able to write a book to this literary standard, not that I’m trying too. But when I do read a book, essay or poem I wonder if I could ever express myself in the same way. Yes, I had to use a thesaurus more than once and yes the comparisons to Greek Mythology were brilliant and something I am not very versed in. Groff’s use of brackets was also something I don’t think I’ve seen before. Was it inner dialogue? Another character? She also used play scripts to show a scene of the story and I enjoyed that as well. It also forced me to slow down in my reading. I tend to plow through stories and this time I really forced myself to digest the language.
  • Lotto’s life (Fates) in the first half of the book felt like a character study to me. He was always treated like a golden boy and could do no wrong so how does that equate as a man? Self-indulgent, cocky, self-centered, immature and a bit whiny. But he was also loyal, sincere, loving, fun, depressed and insecure. The beginning reminded me a bit of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and while some thought that too was boring, I found following the lives of teens into adulthood fascinating which was similar in this book.
  • The drastic change in writing, narration and point of view from Mathilde in the second half (Furies). The book definitely picks up steam and that’s all I want to say.  No spoilers here 🙂
  • The “he said, she said” concept. Done before but here it was superb. I’m obsessed with the television show The Affair right now and this book reminded me of it a little.
  • The secondary cast of characters. Not only were the main characters well created but the cast surrounding them all played their parts perfectly and complimented the story.
  • Smoke and mirrors. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book where what is portrayed by the characters is far from the truth. Like people in real life, you never really know what goes on behind closed doors, what’s really behind the smile and the façade.
  • It has stayed with me. The characters, story, writing. All of it. It’s one of those books, for me, that I appreciate even more after reading it and want to talk to others who have read it.

The reviews are a mixed bag. I can’t guarantee that you will enjoy it as much as I did but here’s a case where sometimes you just have to experience a book for yourself and see if it resonates.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff was released September 15, 2015 by Riverhead Books and is 392 pages. I picked up a copy from my library and you can check here for availability near you.

6 thoughts on “Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

  1. Great review of this book! Agreed that it’s a hard one to guarantee – it depends on what people like to read about. I love reading about marriage and people over a number of years (character studies), so I liked it. I also love all the questions it raises.
    And, you’ve given me hope for The Interestings. That was another one that reviewers were all over the place.

    • Thanks! It’s one of those books that can be received either way. I too love reading about marriage and the progression of life. The Interestings is long and “slower” like the beginning of this one but if you like following people as they grow up, you might like it.

  2. I LOVE The Affair as well and it’s gotten So good lately!

    I was in the camp of not loving the Fates section…I think my main gripe was that it just went on way too long. It took up about 60% of the book (I was reading on a Kindle). I understand that it was necessary to set up Furies, but wished the real estate had been flip flopped. That being said I LOVED the Furies section. And – I agree abou thte writing – it distinctly changed in Furies and went to another level.

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