Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives.
Lotto and Mathilde get married at twenty-two years old. As a young couple, they move from the honeymoon period into co-existing with each other, to almost breaking their marriage. As the years change and test their life together, Lotto (Lancelot) and Mathilde stay together, weathering rough patches in their relationship, betrayals of trust, and months of absences from one another.
Lotto grew up in the South, with a demanding mother. He didn’t want for anything, for his family was rich. Once his sexual awakening occurred, he slept with as many girls as he possibly could.
Mathilde’s upbringing was much different. Bounced around from relatives following the death of her little brother, she struggles to find her footing in the real world. She develops a strange relationship with an older man, someone who uses her for his pleasure and amusement. Once she is free of this man, she marries Lotto.
As the years progress and bodies change, Lotto’s success as a playwright, and his wife’s help, brings him back on top.
Lotto and Mathilde’s married life wasn’t was was interesting about this book. For me, it was hearing both parties talk about their lives (albeit in the third person) and how Mathilde operated as an individual after her husband’s untimely death. I wanted to know more about Mathilde and her life. I wanted to know what kind of person she was outside her life as a married woman.
Women can be anything they want to be. As a feminist woman, I believe and encourage this state of mind. For Mathilde, most of her youth was spent doing things for others, or simply trying to survive. After the death of her husband, though, she becomes more of her own person. No longer is she in Lotto’s shadow. While she grieves for her husband, she becomes her own person as well.
The mystery surrounding Mathilde drew me to her side of the story. As I’ve mentioned two paragraphs above, I wanted to know more about this woman who was demoted to “being a wife” and “Lotto’s wife.” While becoming someone’s life partner is a wonderful thing, in my mind, sometimes this becomes a shadowy backdrop, especially in fictional characters.
In American society, women were seen as property many many years ago, and went from being their parents property to their husband’s property. The exchange of marriage was the exchange of property, where the woman was looked down upon. Today, this has changed a little, but there are still rigid gender roles that apply in straight marriages. Even the games that are played at receptions can come off as very gendered. While (straight) couples would consider it odd for their bride to be property, there are gender norms that are still adhered to in weddings.
In Lotto and Mathilde’s married life, the role of the housewife falls to Mathilde. She does everything–cooking, cleaning, cleaning up etc.– while Lotto is free to try his hand at acting, to try his hand at writing plays. As it’s later revealed, Mathilde helps fix Lotto’s plays, making them more coherent. Mathilde comes off as the perfect housewife, while she’s actually as capable as her husband.
Mathilde’s story was interesting to me, because she became more of a person than just a character who was demoted to a modern housewife. Lotto’s story was a little one-sided, because it painted a picture of what he believed to be true. He believed that he wrote out those plays, and didn’t know that his wife helped establish his career as a playwright. While he did occasionally take his wife for granted, there were jarring moments where he wondered if this was the moment that she would leave him.
But Mathilde didn’t leave him; she merely wanted to make her husband sweat a little.
If you like literary books about marriage, and how very different two people can be in such a marriage, Fates and Furies is the novel for you.