Novel of the week: Matrix by Lauren Groff
Groff’s latest work is a ‘beautiful’ fictional biography of the 12th-century mystical poet Marie de France
Lauren Groff’s celebrated 2015 novel, Fates and Furies, was a sharp portrait of a modern marriage, said Alex Preston in The Observer. Her latest work is “very different indeed”, being a “fictional biography” of the 12th century mystical poet Marie de France.
Little is known about the historical Marie, but Groff “fills her with glorious, corporeal life”. She imagines her being banished from the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine aged 17, and sent to a down-at-heel nunnery in England. After becoming its abbess, she gradually transforms the place into a thriving “island” from which men are banned. Matrix is a “beautiful, unclassifiable book”.
Whether describing Marie’s mystical visions, or the “earthy business of abbey pigs”, Groff writes with “purpose and panache”, said Alexandra Harris in The Guardian. And despite the historical setting, this is in many ways “an assertively modern novel” – concerned with leadership and enterprise, and with a strong “emphasis on women’s working lives”.
From an unlikely sounding premise, Groff has fashioned a work of “great vigour and boldness”.
William Heinemann 272pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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