Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (2015)

This is less of a review and more of a warning. This is because I was only able to make it through 23 pages before stopping. Some would say that means I have not read enough to write a review; I instead say that a book that is so bad I can't even make it to my usual 100 page cutoff deserves a warning so that others don't make the same mistake as me (I'll never get that $1 reservation charge and 30 minutes of my life back).

Fates and Furies is marketed as the story of a marriage told from the perspectives of both of the parties. The couple in question are Lotto and Mathilde. Lotto is short for Lancelot, which is an absolutely realistic name for someone born in Florida in the '50s. His nickname, Lotto, was chosen by his aunt Sallie "because she could move behind wallpaper like the mouse she resembled." WTF does that even mean? It's just nonsense.

Back to the couple at hand. The glowing reviews of this book isolated its exquisite prose as one of its strengths. I was surprised, then, to read the incredibly unsexy sex on page 2: "He longed for something wordless and potent: what? To wear her forever." Hold your horses, Buffalo Bill. Eww. There's a lot of really unsexy sex in the first 23 pages of this book - sex between minors on the roof of a burning building ("Gwennie shoved him in even though she was dry"), molestation at the hand of a drama teacher ("he pushed the child upright and scrabbled in his lap and took the surprised pale worm out of his jeans") and lots of sex with women who don't even rate a name. The sex is not titillating so the book can't be classed as erotica but it's also not adding anything to the story so why is there so much of it?

I found the sex stupid but that wasn't what led to me finally putting the book down. The writing in this book is *terrible*. Lauren Groff does not like conjunctions *at all* so there are whole paragraphs where clauses are separated by commas. It creates this written staccato effect that is really frustrating to read. One example:

"Sunburnt, salted by ocean, beer souring in their mouths. Pipers, pelicans, an angler down the beach hauling in a foot-long golden fish... A strong body is a glory. The sea hissed and gurgled. Slowly, the other three woke. Gwennie stood, pop pop of bikini flesh. Goodness, he would lick her crown to hallux. She looked at what he was doing. She understood. Tough girl, pierced, jailhouse-tattooed by her own pen and pins, but her eyes overflowed the liner."

When I got frustrated enough with the book to put it down, I hopped on Goodreads to check the reviews. The consensus seemed to be that the first half was pretty bad and full of inscrutable language but the second half redeemed it. The thing is, there are too many good books out there that I haven't read for me to have to struggle through 200 excruciating pages before getting to the good stuff. Reading shouldn't be a punishment! One star.

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