FMN Book Club
Time for a new read for the month of May while also reviewing the brilliant Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff. And by the looks of things thanks to all the insta messages and stories I’ve seen, I’m not the only one who loved this book…. Beware of the spoilers if you haven’t finished it yet!
So before I get onto the next book for May (excited for you to read this one), let’s talk Fates & Furies which none other than Barack Obama cited as his favourite book in 2015. What did you guys think? I for one became really obsessed with this book, especially the ‘Furies’ narrative belonging to Mathilde. I’m a real sucker for a great American coming of age story and this book was essentially one huge coming of age story, littered with demons, revenge, unspoken truths and a marriage based on love and lies in equal measure. I thought the writing was beyond smart; Groff managed to cement her own style throughout while also showing a real point of difference in tone and voice between theatrical, dramatic Lotto and steely, capable Mathilde. While at its surface it was the story of a marriage, at its core it was so much more than that. Just like Lotto’s surreal, mythical musical at the end of the book, it’s about human connection, needs, longing, growth and existence. It’s about how marriage is just the start of the story, not the end.
I’m not going to pretend that certain moments of Lotto’s narrative didn’t feel a little like wading a through tar, in fact it was only when I really got to know Mathilde in a deeper way that I wanted to go back and read Lotto’s narrative again. Her story, as with so many ‘behind the scenes’ wives throughout history and today, fills in the gaps of Lottos and indeed their togetherness. While thankful and grateful to his eternally patient wife, Lotto’s story was about himself, whereas Mathilde’s is about the both of them (a story as old as time). The age-old phrase ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ has never rung more true, albeit in deeper than you could ever imagine ways. While Lotto’s narrative is narcissistic, self-consciously so but none the less, narcissistic in a self-indulgent, swooning, tragic and at times loveable way, Mathilde’s is cooly assessing and the tragedies that befell her in her youth don’t have the Romantic, fateful edge Lotto’s do.While narcissistic, Lotto did love Mathilde fiercely and he felt almost childlike the whole way through the book which was his saving grace in terms of affability. When he walked miles back to their hotel in San Francisco after realising his misogynistic speech had upset Mathilde was pitiful and over-dramatic in equal measure but essentially came from a good place. The fact that he arrived at the hotel bedraggled, injured and literally on his last legs so in the end, Mathilde couldn’t be angry with him and had to take care of him was infuriating and the sort of behaviour any woman that’s been in a long term relationship can relate to. I want to be mad at you but now you’ve ruined yourself in some way and I have to take care of you because that’s in my DNA gahhhhh!
I loved antihero Mathilde fiercely by the end of her story, but her silence and seemingly smiling resilience throughout Lotto’s story made me almost scared of her. As someone who struggles to bite their tongue in relationships, her ability to support in silence and manipulate in private was baffling and magnificent in equal measure. While the way she loves and feels might not be the same as the rest of us at times, Lotto’s description of her made me want to shake her. It was only reading her version that made me see her in a whole new light and respect. Without her furies, neither of them would have got where they did and the rage she feels at Chollie at the end after telling Lotto about herself and Ariel, feels almost tangible. I for one was rooting for her in a big way and loved her even more when she did the right thing at the end of book. I think I almost cheered to myself when she bought the plot of land and house in France and demolished it. YES! Needless to say, Mathilde isn’t the forgiving kind. She was something of a sympathetic Lady Macbeth character to me, and it was her story that made Lotto’s so much more interesting. While Lotto had his fair share of tragedy, it also had the familial backing of knowing he was bound fro greatness whereas Mathilde’s grew up believing she was innately bad and unloveable, a burden you couldn’t help but sympathise with even if she herself was inherently lacking in warmth.
Lotto’s sexuality, Mathilde’s past; their hidden secrets broke my heart for both of them in equal measure. But I wondered if I really wanted each of them to know all of each other’s secrets? And the answer is probably no. Mathilde needed Lotto to see her as ‘pure’, innocent and untarnished for both of them in a way, while Lotto’s love for his muse/backbone/support system Mathilde ultimately was enough to quell anything else. They saw what they wanted to see but also what the other person wanted them to see, albeit as far as closed-book Mathilde was concerned. For me, the real tragedy was Mathilde believing Lotto died unforgiving and believing she’d cheated, but I took comfort in knowing that he did indeed forgive, albeit something that never happened the way he thought it did. I’m recommending this book to everyone and anyone, men and women. Lyrical and enthralling, I loved the descriptive insights into Lotto’s Floridian youth, their house in upstate New York, Mathilde’s transatlantic Journey(s)…. I couldn’t help but be in awe of Lauren Groff as a writer and be slightly boggled by her skill and general mind.
Now, time for the next read. This month’s is a little lighter than Fates & Furies, not in subject matter necessarily but in terms of page-turning, this was more of an easy-going read. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller is going to be this months new read. I recently devoured this book in Mexico and loved it. Unlike previous FMN Book Club picks, this feels more English and again revolves around families, secrets, daughters finding their way and marriages based on lies, only this time set between London and the Dorset coastline. I think you guys are really going to love this… I haven’t read her previous book ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ but now want to for sure. So maybe two this month if we can stretch that far?!
It’s a new read so is mainly still in hardback but available on kindles of course too. As always please do share your thoughts on Fates and Furies below (I love getting everyone’s spin on things) and get buying the next read so we can keep on with this year’s worth of reads together. Thanks so much to all who joined in and read this and previous FMN Book Club reads, I love how many of you are getting behind this. I have so many more great ones I’m getting really excited to read this year so I have a feeling we haven’t even found the best of the year yet…
Till next month guys.
Photographed at Cuixmala, Mexico. More soon!