The characters of Lauren Groff’s multiple award winner, FATES AND FURIES, are conceived on the scale of the Greek tragedies the title suggests. Consumed by great love and great fury and driven by their sense of their fates. If you were captured by the gentle subtlety of Toni Fuhrman’s character treatments in One Who Loves, you’ll find Lauren Groff’s the flip side.
Crowned “Lancelot” at birth, Lotto’s life is marked by tragedy before he reaches maturity. He lives by lust and seeks the stage and the adoration he naturally attracts. “He was tall, vivid; a light flickered in him that caught the eye and held it.” When that begins to fail, he is cast into the depths—only to rise again as a playwright. Such tumult might well be his fate were it not for his great love for Matilda. The power of her love carries his to great success, but alas, the tragic flaw.
Matilda we see only through Lotto’s love besotted eyes. The child Matilda we meet much later, also marked by tragedy, is different in all respects from the woman he sees and is on a path to doom—until she sees him and falls in love. Her love for him reshapes her and his love for her redeems her. The endurance of their union defies the predictions of family and friends. Not until his death does that core flaw emerge.
If the language above seems grandiose, it’s because these characters are imbued with the drama of the ages, from the Greeks through Shakespeare; the book breathes it, and it’s catching. Lotto’s greatest play conception (in his eyes) is from Greek mythology. Some knowledge of that mythology (or dim recollection in my case) undoubtedly gives a fuller read, but it’s the power of Lauren Groff’s writing that carries the story. At times I grew impatient with her shifts to the point of view of secondary characters, which I thought unnecessary, but it is a story that will stick with you.