Fates and Furies (Groff)

Discussion Questions
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Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion of Fates and Furies:

1. Why is Lancelot connected with the "Fate" chapter? How would you describe his personality—do you consider him passive, optimistic (unreasonably so?), fair-minded and accepting? Is he humble or, maybe, egotistical?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: We're told that his parents and aunt, early on, believed Lotto was destined for greatness: "It was taken for granted by this trio of adults that Lotto was special. Golden.” What effect does this expectation have on his life? What effect does any such expectation have on anyone's life?

3. What about Mathilde? How would you describe her as a character? In what way is she different from, perhaps even the opposite of, Lotto?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: How do Mathilde's early years—in particular, its tragedy—shape the path of her life? Is fate to blame for her ruthlessness? If so, why is she associated with the "Furies" chapter rather than the "Fates" chapter?

5. In what way does the early tragedy in Lotto's life draw him to Mathilde? And vice versa—what attracts Mathilde to Lotto? How would you describe the early stages of their love and marriage? Are cracks visible at the beginning...or is all smoothness and perfection?

6. Why does Lauren Groff structure her book the way she does: two separate chapters told by two different characters? Why might she have started off with Lotto's account before Mathilde's? What difference would it have made if she had placed Lotto's after Mathilde's? What exactly gets revealed in Mathilde's telling, and were you surprised?

7. Clearly, this book is about a marriage. But the author tackles far broader issues—one of which was addressed in earlier questions (#2 and 4): to what extent do early experiences shape character and life events? Another question Groff examines is what really constitutes such things as "good fortune"? A third question has to do with the extent to which we can truly understand our own life or the life of someone close to us. Tangentially, is it possible to truly know another being? Do you want to weigh in on any of those issues? For starters, how does the novel pose those questions?

8. Talk about the author's use of wordplay, starting with, say, the name Lotto...and even Lancelot. Where else do you find words with double meanings?

9. How much do you know about classical mythology, especially the Fates and the Furies? Who are they in Greek mythology? Where else in the novel does Groff rely on mythology? Notice, for instance, the narrative interruptions, the unnamed voice who interjects and comments. How do those interjections resemble a Greek chorus—and why use such a narrative technique?

10. Are you able to pinpoint other literary allusions—say, to Shakespeare?

11. In what way are readers deliberately misled in this story—and why? Did you feel somewhat manipulated? Or is that the point of Groff's writing?

12. Any similarities here to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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