I’m giving this book its own post because I really liked it. The next book on the list is a young adult one, and I feel that it would take away from the power of this one if I blogged about YA in the same post.
As a bookseller and someone who follows a lot of bookstores and book blogs, I had seen a lot of hype surrounding this book. Usually, I can resist this sort of thing, but when I saw that this was POTUS’s favorite book of the year, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
“From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, [comes] an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception. Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation.
Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill, we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.”–Indiebound
I will try to get through this review without giving too much away because most of the fun in this novel comes from the bomb going off at the midway point (figure of speech; there’s no bomb–or is there?). There is a catalyst event at which point the perspective changes from one character’s to another’s. What I loved most about this novel is the exploration of two people experiencing the same things for years and years, but each experiencing them in completely different ways. It is a hard-hitting lesson in personality and point of view, and it shows that people may share life together and go through many of the same things at the same time, but their personal histories can influence them so much that the way they experience and feel things vary widely.
One thing I loved about this book was the way Groff shows the passage of time. With a few exceptions, she chooses to narrate events surrounding parties thrown by Lotto and Mathilde, and demonstrates their evolving life and relationship through their morphing group of friends, their upgrades in living situation, and reveals big life events through conversations between characters. I thought this was really unique.
Then of course, there’s the “drop” (to use a dubstep term, sorry), where everything changes and everything you thought you knew about the story so far gets turned on its head. I honestly had no idea what was coming. It took me so much by surprise and, even though I was already enjoying the novel for it’s kinda sweet and really saucy love story, the second half was even more enjoyable.
Most of all, I think what makes this book a masterwork is Groff’s ability to portray humanity in all its flawed, messy glory. Lotto and Mathilde are great characters. I really enjoyed both characters, for all of their flaws and vices. I think part of the difficulty that authors face in writing characters that feel real is making them a little good and a little evil without putting them on a pedestal. I imagine that it is hard to spend so much time with a character without making it obvious that you’ve fallen in love with them–even in their badness, it shows when authors adore their characters. Groff keeps her distance very well, and we see every side of her characters, from the perspective of themselves and from others.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic novel well deserving of all the hype surrounding it. It is one of the best books I read last year and I think there’s a little something in it for everyone! It’s a must-read for anyone who loves contemporary literature and potentially award-winning fiction.