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260 pages, Hardcover
First published September 7, 2021
Queen Eleanor had appeared in the doorway of Marie's chamber, all bosom and golden hair and sable fur lining the blue robe and jewels dripping from ears and wrists and shining chaplet and perfume strong enough to knock a soul to the floor.
Anyone who has received from God the gift of knowledge and true eloquence has a duty not to remain silent [...] For this reason I began to think of working on some good story and translating a Latin text into French, but this would scarcely have been worthwhile, for others have undertaken a similar task. So I thought of lays which I had heard and did not doubt, for I knew it full well, that they were composed, by those who first began them and put them into circulation, to perpetuate the memory of adventures they had heard. I myself have heard a number of them and do not wish to overlook or neglect them. I have put them into verse, made poems from them and worked on them late into the night.
“through the countryside, the women will tell stories, woman to woman, servant to servant and lady to lady, and the stories will spread north and south upon this island, and the stories will alchemize into legends, and the legends will serve as cautionary tales, and her nuns will be made doubly safe through story most powerful.”
“Marie’s arrogance brought this final illness upon Wulfhild. Her endless hunger ate up the daughter of her spirit. The need to enlarge this abbey she has thought of as an extension of her own body. Her actions always in reaction to the question of what she could have done in the world, if she had only been given her freedom.”
[S]he could hold her daughters aloof from the corrupting world. There would be no authority but Marie's authority in this place. And they could stay on this piece of earth where the place has always stood but her daughters would be removed, enclosed, safe. They would be self-sufficient, entire unto themselves. An island of women.Historical fiction is not my usual jam, and I dare say books about a 12th century abbey are hardly anyone’s jam. But Lauren Groff is an extraordinary writer, and after Fates and Furies, I would read literally any book she writes.
"She is tall, a giantess of a maiden, and her elbows and knees stick out, ungainly; the fine rain gathers until it runs rivulets down her sealskin cloak and darkens her green headcloths to black. Her stark Angevin face holds no beauty, only canniness and passion yet unchecked. It is wet with rain, not tears. She has yet to cry for having been thrown to the dogs.
"What has come to Marie is a Breton lai in rhyming lines, sudden and beautiful, in its entirety. Her hands begin to shake in her lap. She will write a collection of lais, translated to the fine musical French of the court. She will send her manuscript as a blazing arrow toward her love, and when it strikes, it will set that cruel heart afire. Eleanor will relent Marie will be allowed back to the court, to the place where none starve, and there is always music and dogs and birds and life, where at dusk the gardens are full of lovers and flowers and intrigue, where Marie can practice her languages and hear in the halls the fiery tails of new ideas shooting through conversations."
"And so she rises and her army of nuns follows her, for by now they have all heard that she is a crusader who knows the holy righteousness of the sword."
"This first spring that she has come to the abbey, Marie plants the apricot pits she had stolen from the queen's garden, to get them away from herself, for they are a souvenir of all she has lost. They will struggle to grow, sprouting weak thin leaves. She will feel as her own life is bound up in the trees. She doesn't yet know if she wants them to shrivel or thrive."
"She has passed from the temporal to the everlasting; she has committed herself to this scraggly awful place, to these women she hardly knows. There is in fact a change in her, something subtle, but every time she tries to touch it, to turn it around, to consider it, she is left holding nothing."
"Thank you to my readers.
This book is for my sisters, those of the flesh, and those of the spirit."