Serious spoilers: do not continue reading this blog if you still want to read this awesome novel.
Fates and Furies is the story of Lotto and Mathilde, a happily married couple. He started out a struggling actor who stumbled upon his true talent: writing plays. She supports him through and through. His mother not agreeing with their rather impulsive marriage has disinherited her son. Instead of living of his inheritance they struggle financially in the first years of marriage, Mathilde being the one who provides them with a steady income. With the plays arrive fame and money. Children never make it into the marriage, Lotto seeming to be the one who suffers from not having them. At the end of Fates, the part of the novel dedicated to Lotto, he is informed by a close friend that Mathilde cheated on him several years ago. Lotto is blown away. The final pages of Fates seem to indicate that he has left Mathilde and even tries to commit suicide. At the start of Furies, dedicated to Mathilde, it becomes clear that Lotto has died of a stroke. He has never told Mathilde that he knew of her secret, which turns out not to be the only secret she has kept from him. Mathilde has been banished from her parental home at the age of four because of the dubious part she played in her younger brother’s death. At first she lives with her grandmother, a prostitute in Paris, next she moves to her uncle in the States. He has promised to look after her until she was 18, then she is left to fend for herself. Her choice of financing college is not exactly average: she has herself supported by a rich older man. Lotto is to be the next wealthy man to support her, Mathilde however never counted on falling head over heels in love with this vibrant man. It is too bad his mother cuts short his allowance when she hears of their impulsive marriage, she takes revenge by subtly boycotting potential visits. Mother and son never get to meet again. Despite the fact that Mathilde is revealed to be the opposite of the saint Lotto has always believed her to be, I liked her better when her mistakes and flaws were made known. Especially considering the fact that Mathilde is probably her worst own critic: after Lotto dies their friends do not desert her, even the ones who know the truth. They judge the Mathilde they know, not the one she images herself to be.
Groff combines short sentences with vivid imagery that make for a vibrant description of the couple’s life. The style goes well with the flamboyant Lotto and his life filled to the brink with drugs alcohol pleasure and art. By dedicating the two parts of the novel to husband and wife Groff sets up the truth about Mathilde to be a complete surprise. It also prevents his early death from complicating the structure of the novel. Fates and Furies is a well-written clever novel about a successful marriage based on a big lie. I loved it.