If there was a consensus choice for best book of 2016, it was Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff’s microscopic view of modern marriage. According to Ms. Groff’s website, Fates and Furies is a finalist for the National Book Award, finalist for the Kirkus Prize, NPR’s Morning Edition Book Club Pick and a New York Times Bestseller. It was Amazon’s book of the year and also President Obama’s favorite book of the year, after learning of which the author tweeted: “I just died, came back to life, read again, died again. That’s it, I retire.” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/10/obama-favourite-book-of-2015-lauren-groff-fates-and-furies
Fates and Furies is another novel in which you see two different marriages that are one and the same. In the first half of the novel deals in Lotto’s viewpoint of his perfect marriage to Mathilde, “the best person I know,” whose endless sacrifices, patience and pragmatic luminescence fulfill Lotto in ways even he doesn’t understand. This is Fate.
Lotto was weeping; he could tell from the cold on his face. He tried to keep quiet. Mathilde needed sleep. She had been working sixteen-hour days, six days a week, kept them fed and housed. He brought nothing to their marriage, only disappointment and dirty laundry.
In part two, Groff lets us in on a little secret. Mathilde is in fact not the best person Lotto knows.
The woman stopped five feet from Mathilde with a little cry. Mathilde brought her hands to her cheeks. “I know,” she said. I’ve looked so old ever since my husband — ”
She couldn’t finish the sentence.
“No,” the woman said. “You’re still elegant. It’s just. You look so angry, Mathilde.” . . .
Slowly, Mathilde said: “Angry. Sure. Well, what’s the point of hiding it anymore?”
And then she lowered her head, pressed on.
Her anger is just the beginning. For every ecstatic beatitude Lotto offers, Mathilde has a hidden counterpart. Her past, her dealings with Lotto’s mother, her feelings about having a child; even the smile that perpetually creases her divine face. These are the Furies.
The New York Times ran an unreservedly positive review in September, 2015 and named Fates and Furies one of the 100 Notable Books of 2015.
A domestic union set prominently in a work of fiction has the sometimes unfortunate capacity to obscure whatever else is going on. Yet “Fates and Furies,” Lauren Groff’s remarkable new novel, explodes and rages past any such preconceptions, insisting that the examination of a long-term relationship can be a perfect vehicle for exploring no less than the nature of existence — the domestic a doorway to the philosophical. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/books/review/lauren-groffs-fates-and-furies.html
Groff weaves Greek mythology into the narrative and even her technique harkens back to classical Greek literary traditions. An unnamed voice comments parenthetically throughout like a Greek chorus.
Each of the three Greek Fates plays a hand in the plot: Clotho the Spinner of the Thread of Life, Lachesis, the Measurer of the Thread allotted to each person; and Atropos, the Cutter of life’s thread. The Furies, more of a girl group of nameless “infernal goddesses”play a critical role in the Orestes myth for pursuing Orestes into madness after he murders his mother. There’s some fun gals!
The Slate book club discussion illuminates and challenges several of Groff’s devices and is available to listen to online: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2015/12/lauren_groff_s_fates_and_furies_book_club_and_discussion.html. If you want to get really literary for your book club, there are a plethora of reading guides for this novel on line; everything from NPR’s Morning Edition to the University of Virginia.
Or you can just read it, enjoy it and see whether, like the Oracle of Delphi, it has a message for you.
I’m actually hosting my book club’s discussion of this book next week and drawing my menu from the potluck garden party Lotto and Mathilde host early in their marriage.
Bibb Lettuce salad with vinaigrette
Vinaigrette: two tablespoons of dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of sugar, fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, mint) and 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Drizzle olive oil stirring until you have the consistency you want. You can use lemon juice in place of the vinegar if you prefer.
Spanakopita (I’ll get these at Trader Joe’s)
Artichoke Dip. Always a favorite and a simple recipe. One can of artichoke hearts, one cup of mayonnaise, one cup of parmesan cheese. Blend and bake at 350 until hot and crusty and delicious.
Lasagna. I don’t have a recipe for this yet, but my mother told me her secret is to add cream cheese to the ricotta. I’m going to try it with turkey instead of beef. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Mentions: The opera Tristan und Isolde; Salt-N-Pepa; Nirvana; Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Then there are the fictional operas of Nero and Go.
There is an opera by Carl Orff entitled Antigonae which might be fun to listen to, or might be a drag. I wanted to mention it in case you were interested, but I think I’ll play Thriller.
Lotto: Liam Hemsworth
Mathilde: Emma Stone
Chollie: Jonah Hill
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