Fates and Furies is a portrait of a marriage–as viewed in turn by both participants. The novel is a tragic love story and yet its also more than that.
Lawrence Satterwaite, an unlikely artist, is the creative force in the marriage. His father is a rich, but unsophisticated Florida businessman who made a fortune bottling spring water. Later, Lotto would write a play Springs based on his life in Florida.
As a dramatist, Lotto takes people and events from his life and uses them as creative fodder. His wife is the “saint” who remains childless and suffers for his art. She is his siren, his Antigone, until it all goes terrible wrong.
The second half of the book, Mathilde’s point-of-view, picks up the dramatic pace. Here we see the cracks in the marriage writ large.
Mathilde has made Lotto’s life run smoothly. She has taken care of all the bills and menial details, and she has grown to resent Lotto’s fame. Mathilde also hides a staggering quantity of secrets. The things Lotto didn’t know about his wife “could sink an ocean liner.”
Chollie, Lotto’s long time friend, seeks retribution. When he exposes one of Mathilde’s most shameful secrets, he unwittingly unleashes a tragedy.
Groff depicts complex characters who are pretentious–flawed, yet interesting. In the end, Fates and Furies is more than a portrait of a marriage. It’s a portrait of the sacrifices a couple may need to undertake if one of them is to succeed as an artist.
Other novels about couples dealing with creative conflict: Liza Klaussmann’s Villa America, Peter Nichol’s The Rocks, Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, or Richard Yates’ The Revolutionary Road.