Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lauren Groff Offers Stunning View of a Long Marriage

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lauren Groff Offers Stunning View of a Long Marriage

Article excerpt

In writing as poetic as her previous novel, "Arcadia," Lauren Groff's "Fates and Furies" presents the 24-year marriage of Lancelot and Mathilde, exploring the secrets each partner keeps from the other until their marriage ends in heartbreak, fury and vengeance. Groff writes with an exuberance, intelligence, and wit that few of her contemporaries possess. Her prose is frank and graceful, but behind her genius lingers a certain darkness in her characters and her plot.

Divided into two parts, "Fates" is Lancelot's story, and "Furies" is Mathilde's. Groff raises the curtain of "Fates" as if it's a scene on stage: two 22-year-olds on a beach celebrating their love. They've both just graduated from college and eloped. Lancelot, nicknamed Lotto, was an actor in school, and he'd been quite a ladies' man. Now faithful to Mathilde, he becomes a professional actor struggling to find roles and make money. His rich mother has cut him off from the family's money because she disapproves of Mathilde. So, Mathilde strives to support the young couple, secretly receiving money from Lotto's aunt and sister. Over time, Lotto loses much of his charm, and he can't remember a night when he didn't fall asleep drunk. Desperate and depressed, he needs to land a steady acting gig.

Fate, though, has other plans for him and Mathilde.

In that first part, we see Mathilde primarily through Lotto's eyes. "He longed for something wordless and potent: what? To wear her. He imagined living in her warmth forever. People in his life had fallen away from him one by one like dominoes; every movement pinned her further so that she could not abandon him."

She's an odd-looking beauty, supportive, loving and optimistic. To pay the bills, she works long hours at an art gallery. When she tells Lotto that 1999 will be his breakthrough year, she's almost right. But his fame comes not as an actor, but as a playwright.

After years of struggling, a New Year's night of drinking, and five hours of typing, Lotto writes a play overnight that Mathilde believes brilliant. …

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