“Another banger” – Matrix by Lauren Groff

IMG_29Sep2021at141837In 2015, a writer rocketed onto the scene with a sweeping novel about a married couple that spans decades. Now, that same author is back, and with another banger. Matrix by Lauren Groff tells the story of Marie de France, an ungainly woman in medieval Britain, who is forced from courtly life to life at an abbey. But Marie harbours some secrets. This dazzling work shows Marie fight for what she believes in, and wield power greater than she imagined.

I was a big fan of Fates and Furies when it came out six years ago. I loved the intertwined tale of Lotto and Mathilde and the purity of the writing. So it was with great excitement that I entered the world of Matrix. And it did not disappoint.

You first meet Marie as she arrives at the abbey, leaving behind everything she had ever known, and ever loved. She is cast into a hopeless situation and she knows it. But as the story progresses, Marie’s fearlessness brings her to realise that the situation is not as dire as it first may seem – that she has the power to change things.

Medieval Britain seems a strange place in which to set this very feminist novel, but it works well. I was gripped from the first arrival of Marie. The characters are well drawn and the setting is vivid. I mentioned the purity of writing for Fates and Furies and Groff brings that same clean prose to this. There is dexterity in the writing that gives it a neatness that you so rarely come across. Clearly Groff knows her trade.

Matrix promises love, mystery, and adventure. Marie is a formidable character, and the story follows her from timid novice to abbess. She fights against the patriarchal constraints and wins. She shows her fellow nuns how to survive and thrive. She is an astute and clever woman with the nouse to prosper. Her efforts see the abbey grow from a starving, pitiful existence to a powerful and beautiful place.

This story is for everyone. It’s got a little bit of everything that makes a great novel, and at a mere 272 pages it is not a weighty tome that puts you off. I really loved this book, and rate it highly amongst the books I’ve read this year. Groff is a brilliant storyteller, and Marie is a brilliant character – you want to be in her company forever. If you love queer romance, adventure, and, simply put, a great story, then this is for you. It’s a story that will stay with you for a long time yet.

I was thrilled to receive this book, and can’t wait to see what Groff has up her sleeve next. It reminded me to read her backlist (Fates and Furies isn’t her only previous novel). Reading these books are like taking a warm blanket, a cup of tea, and snuggling up with good friends on a rainy afternoon – comforting, stimulating, and entertaining.

Any Cop?: Matrix will have you laugh, cry, and gasp. It is a book with vision.

Fran Roberts

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