Matrix: A Novel
An illegitimate daughter is born in the twelfth century. Her maternal lineage is that of the Amazons—tall warrior women who do not back down from any fight. Her name is Marie, and she is so often described as plain and ugly that the description becomes a distraction. Lauren Groff’s latest novel, The Matrix begins as Marie is banished to a far-off abbey to become its new prioress at age seventeen.
Out of the royal eye and left to her own devices, Marie discovers her power and becomes the leader she would never have been had she stayed at court. She learns the strengths and weakness of her sisters to build a religious empire of her own command. Her physical needs and carnal urges are satisfied by other sisters and throughout it all her ugliness is ever present. I’m not sure why.
There are many brilliant passages in the book and the commentary on women’s power—particularly the way women tend to thwart one another—is timely and moving. But, time passes swiftly in The Matrix and that isn’t always a good thing. While the protagonist Marie is a proto-feminist and her accomplishments are staggering and impressive, the gaps in time and the journalistic style of the book can feel like a rush to reveal the next installment of Marie’s life rather than a deep and thorough exploration of her character.
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