Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 1.00.33 PMLauren Groff’s new novel Fates and Furies (Penguin/Riverhead; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample) has gotten a landslide of glowing pre-pub press and made the NBA fiction longlist.

So, a slight adjustment might be expected. NPR critic Maureen Corrigan says it is a “marvel” but “could be better.”

Speaking on Fresh Air, she begins by lavishing praise, saying the novel:

… vacuum packs so many complex narratives between its covers that you feel like you’re reading one of those plot-heavy Victorian door stoppers …What starts off as a fairly realistic novel about domestic life digresses into chapters that read like plays and eventually morphs into a dark fairy tale that also borrows heavily from the conventions of the classic psychological suspense story. Wow. … it is a marvel of language and design … Fates And Furies is alive with wit, with language capable of shifting in the space of a sentence from the snappy to the tragic.”

But then comes the hit. Corrigan could not remember the characters shortly after closing the covers for a final time. They failed to resonate or take fully dimensional shape.

That is a failing Corrigan cannot get over, saying “without the presence of compelling characters at its core, Groff’s novel ends up being an austere, architectural achievement. There are certainly worse things for a novel to be, but there are also better.”

Corrigan’s extraordinarily high bar will not stop Fates and Furies from being a best seller — currently at #58 on Amazon sales rankings, it’s sure to show up on this week’s lists.

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