Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. . . . . From the title, I expected something epic. From the publisher’s description, “And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets,” I expected something revelatory. From the acclaim, I expected to be impressed. Perhaps great expectations are meant to be dashed.
As I started reading, I was worried about members’ reactions. I even thought quite a bit about the story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”[i] Then, only one week after our last meeting, JT wrote a scathing review that gave me even more pause. I will include it in the comments. Fates and Furies has been the first, and I hope only, book I have withdrawn. I don’t regret writing to warn readers how difficult the book is – CH wrote that she was glad to know that she was not the only one! RMP wrote that she was going to give it a try, but after starting the audiobook, she wasn’t so sure. I had quite a few other readers concur.
At our in-person discussion, KC reminded me that we read the book because of the book club and accept the difficulty. We read, looking for something about which to comment. He mentioned Carol B., who always came with pages of notes! Well, that commitment is not always true, especially now that our meetings are down to just three or four of us! We miss the varying points that bounce around. I still remember when, in response to Landline by Rainbow Rowell, one of us said she threw the book across the room when the author introduced a magic telephone. And Carol moved out of state in February.
So what did we think of Fates and Furies? JG hadn’t read the book, but she made a good contribution when talking about character motivations and the value of books outside our box. Although the language and descriptions are remarkable, they were not enjoyable for me. There There by Tommy Orange had some unidentifiable characters, but his descriptions seemed important and his language beautiful or necessary. I did not enjoy reading descriptions of a dog’s penis as a “tube of lipstick all the way extended.” Perhaps, if we were immersed in classical themes, mythology, and Shakespeare, which often have a lot of bawdy humor, incestuous and devious behavior, we might be better prepared to appreciate the grandiose treatment. KC chose this description to share, “Like most deadly attractive people, he had a hollow at the center of him.” Ha!
Since the secrets Mathilde kept stemmed from her childhood, it particularly reminded me of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child, in which the adult reverted to the child to heal her trauma. KC and I agreed that Lotto’s sister and aunt were the only likeable characters. Lotto is a narcissist and Mathilde is both a fate and a fury. KC felt the intrusion of Lotto’s plays seemed too much, but the book is packed full and we might need to read it again. But will we? I think not.
I certainly expect us to fare better next month as we read a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang. Exhalation is still a challenge, since we have only seldom read science fiction or fantasy, but sometimes reading something outside of this world can help us understand it even better!
At the meeting I shared a list of themes as well as other book club selections that seem related to me. It can be a great challenge to look back at what we read. Please comment or send me a message if you would like to continue the discussion! Thanks always.
- –Lotto and Mathilda
- –Chollie and Danica
- –Antoinette and Gawain
- –Samuel and three wives
- –Mathilda’s parents
- Children – parental/environmental/economic/genetic influences
- Gender roles
- Mythology – Grandiose
- Literary Pornography
- What makes an award winner?
PREVIOUS READING SELECTIONS THAT COME TO MIND, GROUPED THEMATICALLY:
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer
- Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
- Landline by Rainbow Rowell
- Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
- Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler
- Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
- Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
- Circling the Sun by Paula McClain
- There There by Tommy Orange
- God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
- This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
- Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
- Defending Jacob by William Landay
[i] There are many versions of this story, perhaps dating back over 1000 years. The one I think of is by Hans Christian Anderson (1837).