Books on GIF #44 — 'Fates and Furies' by Lauren Groff


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books — from bestsellers to classics to unearthed gems — told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

This Sunday's book is 'Fates and Furies' by Lauren Groff. 
Fates and FuriesWhen I first started reading this book, right from the very first sentence, I was like: oh man the writing was over-the-top pretentious. Here's how it begins: 'A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain's sudden sweeping.' Barf! What does that even mean? Is it raining? I guess so. And then there were the main characters: Lancelot and Mathilde. Those names: Yuck! Lancelot (Lotto for short), the focus of the first half of the book, is a golden child of privilege who's banished to prep school after an indiscretion. Then he goes to Vassar where he has tons of sex before he meets Mathilde at a party right before graduation. He asks her to marry him on the spot. Later, they move to Greenwich Village where she works in a gallery and supports him as he struggles to be an actor before he switches gears and achieves fame and fortune as a playwright. While all this is going on I was having flashbacks to 'A Little Life.'Here were more privileged and awful characters I couldn't relate to. I was like: almost gave up on this book. But I pressed on! And I'm glad I did, because roughly midway through the book, right at page 209, it became excellent. That's when the second section begins, and it's focused on Mathilde. Her story is far more interesting and intense than Lancelot's. She has a mysterious past. She bears tremendous grief. She's out for revenge! I can't tell you why, because it would give too much away, but this book goes from 'A Little Life' to some cross between 'The Count of Monte Cristo,' 'Gone Girl' and 'Old Boy' REAL quick. Like: is a master of the dark arts. She subtly manipulates Lancelot through sex, flattery and by taking care of his every need. She also works behind the scenes to isolate him from his mother, his friends and others to gain his life, creative work and his money. And when she moves on her enemies, whether through blackmail, sex or other means, she really sticks it to them: I read the second section of the book, it occurred to me that the writing is more direct and less precious. I wondered if perhaps the overwrought style at the beginning is meant to be a subtle reflection of Lancelot's character, and the more severe second half a reflection on Mathilde. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I like to think the whole first section is a set up, lulling the reader into thinking one way about the story before they realize:'s a lot going on in 'Fates and Furies,' and the more I think about it the more I like it. It's cleverly written. It's a book about power, particularly its dynamics in marriage. And it's a revenge tale, and I absolutely love revenge tales. If you can get through the first half, the payoff is well worth it. 

My rating:'Fates and Furies' by Lauren Groff was published in 2015 by Riverhead Books. 390 pages. 

What's next? 'Imagine Wanting Only This' by Kristen Radtke, 'Our Man in Havana' by Graham Greene and 'Eve's Hollywood' by Eve Babitz, among others.

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Thanks for reading!*


* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!