Saturday, December 4, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Matrix by Lauren Groff

I saw matrix by Lauren Groff was getting a lot of buzz in the historical fiction world. Then I read it was set in an abbey in medieval England, in the twelfth century. The protagonist, Marie, is an illegitimate noblewoman. Her father was Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, establishing a connection of sorts to Eleanor of Aquitaine. My favorite family in my favorite historical time period—I had to read it.

Marie is excessively tall, ungainly, unattractive, illegitimate, and poor. So, she is considered unmarriageable and therefore useless. However, because she has connections (Empress Mathilda and Eleanor) she is sent, at the age of seventeen, to an abbey to take over as prioress. Marie has no religious calling and no desire for this position. Worse, when she arrives, she discovers it is small, impoverished, and in the midst of a plague. 

Marie is headstrong, passionate, intelligent, and fierce (much like Eleanor, who she loves and idolizes.) The arc of the novel is the process by which Marie comes to terms with the life she will have to live and then turns the abbey into a monument of female empowerment. Marie is able to turn the abbey not only into an enormously prosperous one, but also a haven for women where they can thrive according to their talents. Marie is an ambitious, prideful woman, but she is also generous and loving. Her theology is unorthodox, to say the least, but her devotion to her charges is complete.

This is a powerful literary work with luminous prose that pulled me into the twelfth century. Marie is a woman of her time and ahead of her time. Highly recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment