Maitrix – by Lauren Groff – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England, France)

Of Lauren Groff’s six published books, three have been finalists for the National Book Award. And now, having read just one of them, I can see why. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

This novel is the story of Marie de France. But although the historical Marie de France is known as a bit of a rebel and medieval poet, very little documentation exists about the details of her life. Clearly not a problem for this author. Because in MATRIX, Groff’s beautiful prose fully fleshes out the internal life of this famous 12th century nun. So much so that I now feel like I’ve met the woman. That’s because the entire book, with the exception of the very end, takes place exclusively within Marie’s mind — as she weighs her choices, struggles with acceptance, doubts herself, and then, ultimately, comes to terms with her life. It’s all VERY human.

Marie’s beginnings are not auspicious. She is a child who results from a royal rape. She is exceptionally tall and widely considered too unattractive for marriage. So, at 17, she is banished by English Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to the harsh life of a small, remote, and impoverished abbey. Though, because she has royal blood, Marie is sent to be its abbess.

Marie de France presents her book of poems to Henry II of England, by Charles Abraham Chasselat (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Marie is completely fascinating. Having never prepared for a religious life and lacking a true vocation, she nevertheless brings fierce ambition and a savviness that eventually earns her respect and transforms the tiny abbey into a large, progressive, and flourishing sanctuary.

Lauren Groff
Photo from her Website

But what I found MOST interesting is how the book can also be viewed as a fable — illustrating how any of us can make the most of the life we are given, instead of continually wishing for things to be different.

I strongly recommend this gem of historical fiction (also a bestseller) and will go on to read more books by Lauren Groff.

More about Lauren Groff.

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