Book Review — Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies is a literary fiction novel following the lively and uncommon lives of Lancelot (Lotto) and Mathilde. The book is conveniently divided into two parts: Fates — told from Lotto’s perspective and Furies — presented by Mathilde.

The book wants you to believe that you are reading a story about marriage. However, Fates and Furies is a tale about two people with a life, portrayed as a Greek tragedy that is full of ego and talent mistaken for genius, lust mistaken for love, lies mistaken for truth, and characters’ determination to claim power and superiority mistaken for promised success.

Fates begins with the early life of Lotto, described as a sensitive, bright boy with a spectacular future who tries coping with life after the sudden loss of his father and deals with his distant and emotionally-detached mother. Throughout the book, he develops charisma, gains friends and popularity, but continues to be dramatically haunted by the past. He becomes romantic, attention and approval seeking, ignorant, egocentric, disillusional and naive; completely oblivious about the world. He knows facts about his wife and so-called closest friends, but does not really know them at all. His skewed perception of the people present in his life never even slightly changes.

All his childhood and adult years he was being fed with an unshakeable sense of grandiosity that he rarely questioned- a life of instant parties, endless champagne, theatre and a beautiful wife who pulls the strings of his existence without him noticing. Success is the only thing that interested him, and if he could not reach it, despair swallowed him. It’s partially because of the way he was raised — circled by relatives who steadily implanted the idea that he is extraordinary.

Furies is not left with much to tell. It is significantly shorter in length compared to Fates and did not reveal anything we had not already suspected. Here Mathilde is illustrated as the person she truly is, blurred by the personality she believes she has. She is calculated, vengeful, secretive, manipulative, strong-willed, determined and deeply troubled with a very difficult childhood and adolescence. She drove and pushed Lotto to unlock the depths of his abilities in order to finally achieve the life she envisioned for them the minute she heard of him and his background.

It is one of those novels that shines through its writing style rather than plot or character development. Often, the brief sentences felt chopped and rough. In certain scenes, the lines would better fit a poetry piece that hardly says anything. The words and sentences sound, but they do not show. Heavy prose is saturated with pretty and melodic adjectives when not needed. As a reader, I would have expected Furies to be distinguished from Fates not only by its content, but also by its style and selection of words and phrases. However, both of the author’s key characters sounded awfully the same in their purposefully separated narratives.

The structure perplexes instead of astonishes. On a single page, the author jumps from the present, then a memory, to even fast forward five years in the future. It happens nearly every chapter. There is nothing wrong with displaying creativity, but Groff made me lose interest from all that constant scene flashing and skipping. It tired my eyes and irritated my brain.

Now in a conclusion, let’s clear out few things that the book’s blurb intentionally made confusing for us. Lotto and Mathilde’s marriage could be in no real and rational manner considered ‘great’. Exhibit A: They married the ideals of each other with no further inclination to learn more about one another throughout the time, because living in their own worlds was much more preferable.

Exhibit B: Mathilde’s countless desperate, but skilled attempts to prevent the husband she allegedly loves from being with his family is not a key to a ‘great’ marriage.

And finally, Exhibit C: Focusing the course of their relationship primarily on glamour and whether Lotto will or will not create the masterpiece that never really came, was not that ‘great’ value either.

Rating: 2 stars