By Lauren Groff
Gorgeous Narrative Makes This Atmospheric Story a Great Literary Treasure
MATRIX is a delightful novel about the life and struggles of Marie de France and her contenious relationship with Eleanor of Aquitaine. The novel begins in 1158 when the tall and ungainly, Marie is only seventeen years old and is cast out of the royal court. The Queen has sent Marie, despite protestations and lack of godly vocation, to the decrepit and poverty-stricken English abbey to become it's prioress.
Marie, who can keep books and write in four languages, quickly learns the rhythm of the abbey. She is at first overwhelmed by the severity and poverty of life in the abbey, but soon finds focus and a devotion to her sisters. She is determined to transform and protect the abbey and chart a better course for the women she now leads. Her decisions, she believes are emboldened by divine visions of the Virgin Mary.
Marie’s character as envisioned by author Lauren Groff is sublime. She is smart, bold and has tremendous foresight. She seizes and holds power in the abbey for over 50 years. She turns an ailing and dilapidated convent into a thriving self-sufficient estate, overgrown with fruits, vegetables and livestock. She builds creative defenses and she boldly fights off the jealous priests, nuns, and villagers who plot against her. The story is an intriguing vision of a women-centered culture and the importance of a woman's reputation.
Groff’s prose is beautiful. Vivid descriptions detail the gray abbey, the starving nuns, the bleak countryside, and the chilling winds. MATRIX is a highly enjoyable read, one that should be savored slowly, perhaps with a glass or two of fine wine. While some of Marie’s morals and decisions may be disconcerting to some readers, the book is a literary treasure.
Author Lauren Groff masterfully transports us to England in the twelfth century, a time of disease, death and royal upheaval. Groff is a two time National Book Award Finalist and The New York Times best selling author of three novels, The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, and Fates and Furies. She has also offered two short story collections Delicate Edible Birds and Florida. She has won numerous awards and her work regularly appears in the New Yorker, and The Atlantic. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.
Publisher Riverhead Books
Published September 7, 2021