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Matrix
Cover of Matrix
Matrix
A Novel
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE 2022 JOYCE CAROL OATES PRIZE

FINALIST FOR THE 2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION

One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2021


Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, The Financial Times, Good Housekeeping, Esquire, Vulture, Marie Claire, Vox, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and more!

“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.
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE 2022 JOYCE CAROL OATES PRIZE

FINALIST FOR THE 2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION

One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2021


Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, The Financial Times, Good Housekeeping, Esquire, Vulture, Marie Claire, Vox, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and more!

“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.
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  • From the cover

    One

    1.

    She rides out of the forest alone. Seventeen years old, in the cold March drizzle, Marie who comes from France.

    It is 1158 and the world bears the weariness of late Lent. Soon it will be Easter, which arrives early this year. In the fields, the seeds uncurl in the dark cold soil, ready to punch into the freer air. She sees for the first time the abbey, pale and aloof on a rise in this damp valley, the clouds drawn up from the ocean and wrung against the hills in constant rainfall. Most of the year this place is emerald and sapphire, bursting under dampness, thick with sheep and chaffinches and newts, delicate mushrooms poking from the rich soil, but now in late winter, all is gray and full of shadows.

    Her old warhorse glumly plods along and a merlin shivers in its wicker mew on the box mounted behind her.

    The wind hushes. The trees cease stirring.

    Marie feels that the whole countryside is watching her move through it.

    She is tall, a giantess of a maiden, and her elbows and knees stick out, ungainly; the fine rain gathers until it runs in rivulets down her sealskin cloak and darkens her green headcloths to black. Her stark Angevin face holds no beauty, only canniness and passion yet unchecked. It is wet with rain, not tears. She has yet to cry for having been thrown to the dogs.

    Two days earlier, Queen Eleanor had appeared in the doorway of Marie's chamber, all bosom and golden hair and sable fur lining the blue robe and jewels dripping from ears and wrists and shining chapelet and perfume strong enough to knock a soul to the ground. Her intention was always to disarm by stunning. Her ladies stood behind her, hiding their smiles. Among these traitors was Marie's own half sister, a bastardess sibling of the crown just like Marie, the sum of errant paternal lusts; but this simpering creature, having understood the uses of popularity in the court, had blanched and run from Marie's attempts to befriend her. She would one day become a princess of the Welsh.

    Marie curtsied clumsily, and Eleanor glided into the room, her nostrils twitching.

    The queen said that she had news, oh what delightful news, what relief, she had just now received the papal dispensation, the poor horse had exploded its heart it had galloped so fast to bring it here this morning. That, due to her, the queen's, own efforts over these months, this poor illegitimate Marie from nowhere in Le Maine had at last been made prioress of a royal abbey. Wasn't that wonderful. Now at last they knew what to do with this odd half sister to the crown. Now they had a use for Marie at last.

    The queen's heavily lined eyes rested upon Marie for a moment, then moved to the high window that overlooked the gardens, where the shutters were thrust open so Marie could stand on her toes and watch people walking outside.

    When Marie's mouth could move, she said, thickly, that she was grateful to the queen for the radiance of her attention, but oh no she could not be a nun, she was unworthy, and besides she had no godly vocation whatsoever in any way, at all.

    And it was true, the religion she was raised in had always seemed vaguely foolish to her, if rich with mystery and ceremony, for why should babies be born into sin, why should she pray to the invisible forces, why would god be a trinity, why should she, who felt her greatness hot in her blood, be considered lesser because the first woman was molded from a rib and ate a fruit and thus lost lazy Eden? It was senseless. Her faith had twisted very early in her childhood; it would slowly grow ever more bent into its...

About the Author-
  • Lauren Groff is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, Fates and Furies and Matrix, and the short story collections Delicate Edible Birds and Florida. She has won the Story Prize and has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Groff’s work regularly appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and else­where, and she was named one of Granta’s 2017 Best Young American Novelists.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 21, 2021
    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. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency.

  • AudioFile Magazine Adjoa Andoh's masterful narration channels the power running throughout Groff's much anticipated novel. Distressingly tall and awkward, Marie de France, half sister of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, is exiled to a decrepit, far-flung abbey. First, as prioress and, then, as abbess, Marie begins her life's work, audaciously transforming the abbey into an empowering and wholly unique sanctuary for the women within. Andoh allows listeners to fully experience the nuns' rich personalities, using an impressive range of accents, timbres, and rhythms throughout. Above all, it is her depiction of Marie that shines most brightly. With a low, gravelly voice, Andoh conveys Marie's intensity while also hinting at her carefully hidden sensuality and vulnerability. This resonant and authentic narration honors the novel and makes for a truly compelling audiobook. S.A.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
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A Novel
Lauren Groff
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