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Fates and Furies: A Novel

Fates and Furies: A Novel - Lauren Groff Fates and Furies has all the fixings of a classic Greek tragedy...or is it comedy? As Groff reminds us throughout, it's all a matter of perspective. This is a story of passion, betrayal, rage, loss, lust, revenge, hubris, plotting, epic love, and epic deception. All this peppered with the occasional omniscient aside, a la classic Greek chorus. At the center of this storm we find Lotto and Mathilde, an ambitious and enthralling couple whose marriage - the bedrock for both - is built on half-truths and misconceptions.

This framework allows Groff to be both playful and self-indulgent in her narrative. She introduces us to a group of preposterous characters who find themselves leading equally preposterous lives. She isn't exactly subtle, either, in hammering home her very meta intentions. Early on, Lotto's drama teacher instructs us on how to read this work. We read plays embedded within the larger narrative, go to operas, and attend art shows. Many of the characters' names are a nod to other characters from great works of art and myth - Lancelot being the most obvious. Her narrators regularly quote major players in the literary/art world. Art criticism and the creative process play a major role in their motives and moods. [The Greek chorus asides, though delightful, are yet another example.] And don't think those mentions of gesamtkunstwerk and ekphrasis went unnoticed.

In short, Groff makes sure we know that this is not just the story of a marriage. Instead, she uses it as a sounding board for her commentary on the creative process and the power of great art to tap into something visceral within us. Perhaps Lotto and Mathilde's marriage - charged, electric, painful, devout, ecstatic, consuming, devastating - mirrors the marriage between artist and expression, truth and beauty? It speaks to the struggle of remaining faithful to our truths while trying to contribute something meaningful to the world. Though at times overwrought, this story is, in the end, deeply moving and intimate, the pretense giving way to emotional veracity.