Rating: 4 stars
Every now and again, you hear about a book that sounds so weird, you just have to try it. Lauren Groff’s Matrix is one of those books for me.
It follows Marie, who is sent off to become a nun because she’s considered too unattractive to ever marry. She is in love with the queen who sent her off, and is devastated by the separation. Marie eventually steps into the role and becomes incredibly powerful and influential as the abbess. Our story follows her throughout her life at the abbey.
I don’t know how to describe this book except to say it is weird and fascinating in all the best ways. It was a finalist for the National Book Award back in 2021 and it won the 2022 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, which I feel is a helpful indicator of what you’re in for with this one.
Groff eschews quotation marks for dialogue, which is something I never quite get used to. I don’t understand the point except that some writers seem to consider it more Literary.
The writing is beautiful and the story is quietly fascinating. Marie deals with the day to day of running an abbey and trying to pull it up from poverty. She wants to fortify her domain and keep the nuns safe from the outside world and the “lesser sex” (men).
There are some big plot moments, but it’s mostly about the interior life of a woman who is making the best of a situation she never would have chosen for herself. In all, I thoroughly enjoyed Matrix and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, particularly about women living out unusual lives to the best of their ability.