AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION
“A relentless exhibition of Groff’s freakish talent. In just over 250 pages, she gives us a character study to rival Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell .” – USA Today
“An electric reimagining . . . feminist, sensual . . . unforgettable.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
“Thrilling and heartbreaking.” –Time Magazine
“[A] page-by-page pleasure as we soar with her.” –New York Times
One of our best American writers, Lauren Groff returns with her exhilarating first new novel since the groundbreaking Fates and Furies.
Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease.
At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions. Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie’s vision be bulwark enough?
Equally alive to the sacred and the profane, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality, and religious ecstasy in a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around. Lauren Groff’s new novel, her first since Fates and Furies, is a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The fourth novel from acclaimed author Lauren Groff is a bona fide showstopper: a tempestuous, poetic, and endlessly surprising ode to women’s power—divine and otherwise. Matrix crafts a largely fictionalized account of 12th-century French poet Marie de France, cast here as the illegitimate daughter of royalty who is banished to a failing, illness-infested English abbey, where she defies the crown and the pope to lift up her fellow nuns. Groff is an exceptional storyteller. The novel’s magic lies in Marie’s clarion voice and her unwavering, almost fanatical dedication to creating a closed society run entirely by women. We couldn’t get enough of this dizzyingly creative and unabashedly passionate depiction of cloistered life in the Middle Ages.
Groff (Florida) fashions a boldly original narrative based on the life and legend of 12th-century poet Marie de France. After Marie is banished to a poverty-stricken British abbey by Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine at age 17 in 1158, she transforms from a reluctant prioress into an avid abbess. With the rhythm of days and nights regulated by the canonical hours from Lauds to Prime, from Compline to bed, Marie reshapes the claustrophobic community into a "self-sufficient... island of women," where "a woman's power exists only as far as she is allowed." To that end, she confesses a series of 19 beatific visions that guide her in designing an impenetrable underground labyrinth as a secret passageway to the convent, building separate abbess quarters, establishing a scriptorium, and constructing a woman-made lake and dam to insure a constant water supply. Groff fills the novel with friendships among the nuns, inspirational apparitions, and writings empowered by divine inspiration. Transcendent prose and vividly described settings bring to life historic events, from the Crusades to the papal interdict of 1208. Groff has outdone herself with an accomplishment as radiant as Marie's visions.