Meh. I loved The Monsters Of Templeton and eagerly looked forward to meeting that same humanity and kindness displayed there again here in the pages of Fates And Furies, but instead all I got was a book about a naive dude and his bitchy wife with her unrelentingly poor choices. If anything, it reminded me of a fictionalized version of Vera by Stacey Schiff: great writing but God, the protagonists are deeply unsympathetic. Our two main characters, Lotto and Mathilde, are passionately in love, marrying after two weeks of meeting at the age of 22 and weathering all sorts of storms, personal and professional, to enjoy a mostly secure and happy union. I’ll be honest, a lot of Lotto’s half, I kept trying to guess what sort of dark fury was building underneath, as had been promised in the blurbs, to be revealed in the second half. And then I got to Mathilde’s part and… meh.
God, she’s so awful. She makes a terrible mistake as a child (or maybe she doesn’t! But instead of just getting the fuck over it, in the most annoying part of the book, we’re forced to read about her feelings about her feelings <-- useful phrase my darling best friend used when we were discussing the book last night. It is so nice to have intelligent friends) and is punished with a really crappy childhood, but then goes on to make really bad choices which she shouldn't be making because she's clearly an intelligent person who KNOWS better. You know a character is an idiot when you agree more with the "menacing" uncle than with her re: supporting herself through college. And I have no fucking idea why she even went to college if she isn't going to use a damn thing she learned in those four years to support herself afterwards. She bitches about Lotto's career and their poverty but when push comes to shove, goes right back to the guy who humiliated her for years instead of maybe using her fucking degree to get a real job. Jesus Christ, Mathilde. Pull yourself together, you great idiot. I'm also really tired of books where I'm supposed to sympathize with the woman who deliberately obscures herself behind her husband because fucking staaaaaahp. That's a legitimate issue through the 1970s and maybe even 80s, but once through the 90s, there's no excuse to blame sexism for what is essentially just a young woman's passive-aggressive display of fear of the real world. Bitch, you have choices! Stop making the worst, the cowardly ones! And this is another book which has been compared to the wonderful, diabolical Gone Girl, much to my ire. Gone Girl was terrific, featuring a sociopath who made choices that made perfect, if selfish and cruel, sense. That portrait of a marriage was at once fantastical and terrifyingly believable. Fates And Furies is believable in that, yes, people are this dumb, but I didn't care about them and was honestly glad when the book was over and I didn't have to deal with Mathilde's bullshit any more. I didn't even care about her grand "redemptive" gesture at the end. The best parts of the books were the ones that alluded to Lotto's plays (again, echoes of my experience with Vera) and the observation that you can't really know anyone unless they're committed to openness with you (so by that measure, I don't think Lotto and Mathilde had a successful marriage, but what do I know? Marriage is hard work, I'll grant you that.) Everything else was well-written drivel.