September 07, 2021


By Lauren Groff
Review by
Lauren Groff says she aims to create a sense of wonder and awe in her novels. In Matrix, the awe-filled moments are too many to count.
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Lauren Groff’s fourth novel, her highly anticipated follow-up to Fates and Furies (2015), takes place almost 800 years ago, yet it feels both current and timely. Set in a small convent in 12th-century England, Matrix looks back in time to comment astutely on the world as we now know it, exploring big ideas about faith, gender, community and individualism.

Abbess Marie is based in part on Marie de France, France’s earliest known female poet and one of the country’s most well-regarded literary stylists. As a teenager, Groff’s fictional Marie is banished from Eleanor of Aquitaine’s court and sent to molder in an impoverished abbey. Marie soon rises to the senior position of abbess, and she transforms the convent into a thriving estate.

Marie’s modifications to the abbey are guided by visions that draw imagery from the real Marie de France’s tales of courtly love. These visions are the motivation and impetus for many of Marie’s boldest innovations: the successful scriptorium where gorgeous new manuscripts are produced; the abbess house where Marie offers comfort and privacy; and the impenetrable labyrinth that girds the abbey, protecting the women who live inside.

Groff brings a bold originality to Matrix and a compassion for her characters, no matter how prickly some of them may be. This is a heartening story of one woman’s vision and creativity, unthwarted and flourishing, despite all odds.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Matrix author Lauren Groff shares how she found refuge in her latest novel’s community of nuns. “It’s a definition of family that is not often represented in the outside world.”

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By Lauren Groff
ISBN 9781594634505

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