The year is almost over, but I wanted to sneak in one last book review. I’d rather my last post of 2015 NOT to be about a book I didn’t like, but I need to share my thoughts and get it out of my system.
I rarely pick up books just because it’s gotten a ton of awards and critical acclaim. The last time I did that was with The Goldfinch, which I hated. I wanted to see what the fuss was about with Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Groff’s novel is a National Book Award finalist, was an NPR top pick of 2015, and named best book of the year by Washington Post.
Fates and Furies is a story of a marriage, as told from both sides. The first half of the book is told from the husband Lotto’s point of view, starting from childhood and goes deep into their marriage. The second half is told from the wife Mathilde’s point of view, picking up where Lotto’s story left off. However, there’s plenty of Mathilde flashbacks to fill in the gaps of Lotto’s story.
Here’s my problem with the characters: why should I care about them? My lackluster emotion might be because I read it during my Christmas Eve insomnia induced by my neighbors partying until 3AM. I couldn’t relate to the couple. They didn’t grab me or make me want to feel for them in anyway. Except that I hate how self-involved Lotto was.
I’ve read my share of books with wealthy white characters: The Interestings, The Lake Season, Bittersweet, Seating Arrangements. With the exception of Seating Arrangements, I felt emotionally attached to at least one of the major characters of those books. One person I could relate to in some way.
I haven’t read Groff’s other books to know if this is her usual style, but as a reader, I felt very emotionally removed from Lotto and Mathilde. Even after I learned about Mathilde’s tortured childhood. It was too little, too late. Perhaps it was the sidebar comments sprinkled throughout, which interrupted the story’s flow. They came from an omniscient narrator we never meet and only hear from occasionally. I kept hoping the narrator would turn out to be a family friend or someone else tied to this couple’s lives. There is no revelation on whom this opinionated narrator could be.
I’m not bashing the book. It just wasn’t for me. I think for 2016, I’ll trust my gut on what to read instead of picking up a book because it’s famous. I’m happy it was a library book and not one I paid for.
Did you read Fates and Furies? What did you think?
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