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Matrix (2021)

de Lauren Groff

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
9556018,561 (3.89)134
"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"--… (més)
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This book demands a great deal from the reader. It's historical fiction set in the late 12th/early 13th century; the protagonist is based very loosely on a woman named Marie de France. That Marie was an author, known primarily for her "lais", lengthy poems much favored at the royal courts. She may or may not have been a half sister of Henry II, and she may or may not have been the Abbess of Shaftesbury.

Groff takes the liberty of inventing a version of Marie from these bare bones, and what a creation she is. Born into a family of tall, powerful, educated women, she is the product of the rape of her mother by Henry's father when he passed through their village on a Crusade. She grows up to possess none of the graces that would make her successful at court, and at age 17 is sent by Henry's wife, the redoubtable Eleanor of Aquataine, to take responsibility for an abbey that is quite literally dying.

So before Marie's life as abbess, the core of the story, even begins, the reader benefits from knowing something of the Crusades, of the history of France and "Angleterre", of the women who took center stage in the events of the time, particularly Eleanor and Matilda (the men are only sketched in), and the operations of an abbey. A quick dive into Wikipedia will fill in the gaps for those who would like a deeper understanding of the history; those who are incurious about the details can still appreciate the tales of these forceful personalities, Marie chief among them.

The next demand on the reader is to accept Marie, who she becomes and what she accomplishes at the abbey. She is both of her time, and above and beyond her time. Physically intimidating, intellectually on a par with the royals and ecclesiastics she must deal with, ambitious, religious, and yet carnal. Having saved the abbey from ruin, she develops a vocation to make it into a thriving enclave where the sisters are safe from the ravages of the external world. She taps into their talents to create illuminated manuscripts, reclaim lands and monies from the neighboring gentry, and achieve engineering feats. Marie is driven by visions in which the Virgin Mary guides her - or are these Marie's own desires transformed into visions?

The final demand is to find your own terms on which to accept the book. Will you consider it a lushly written, dynamic fantasy of a person and place that could have existed in the real world? Or will you approach it from the theological perspective and become enmeshed in whether Marie dangerously oversteps the bounds of the Church in pursuit of her own ambitions? Do you chose to take it as a feminist creed, a statement of the potential power of women to sustain themselves in a world without men?

In the end, it is not an easy book, but one that was, for me, rewarding.

p.s. I listened to the audiobook and the narration was superb. ( )
  BarbKBooks | Aug 15, 2022 |
Marie's family were most un-womanly, especially for the 12th century. Their stature was larger than usual (some called them giantesses). They were stronger and adventurous to the point of going together on a Crusade.

However, Marie’s mother had been raped by Henry II and Marie was the product. After her mother’s death, Marie was able to secretly continue Managing the family estate. Eventually it was taken from her by male relatives. She appealed to Eleanor of Aquitane, who installed her as the prioress and next abbess of Shaftesbury, a rundown abbey with starving inhabitants.

Under Marie’s leadership and miraculous visions, the abbey turned around and then thrived. Marie not only reinstated the farmlands, but initiated industry and built amazing defense systems to keep those men away who jealously wanted to claim the abbey once it became a prosperous watchword.

I found it an intriguing story of women without men – what they could build, achieve and dream. Some even found love in this world of their own. 4 stars
  streamsong | Aug 13, 2022 |
One of the most believably positive and affirming books about women and women-centered communities that I have read. There's a wealth of historical detail and a plethora of new terminology for the day to day life of the religious community that sent me scurrying to a dictionary and other reference sources. Groff does have the occasional annoying habit of "futurecasting" the narrative (i.e. phrases like "Later in life she would come to learn. . ." ) but mostly this is in the early part of the book and she stops doing it after a while. ( )
  BornAnalog | Aug 12, 2022 |
This is good, one could say very good. But this isn't the book I thought I was going to read and I think there's another story in here that would be even more interesting, although far more difficult.
Marie is at the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, when she is given the "good" news that she is going to be prioress of a small, struggling nunnery. At a stroke, her life seems to be stripped away from her, However Marie does not give in, and takes the Nunnery in hand. Just as she starts to find her feet, and takes on the task of turning round a struggling institution, we fast forward almost 30 years and come to Marie in post as Abbess and the remainder of the book is her period in charge, what she does, how she goes about transforming the institution into a powerhouse of prayer and actual power and influence.
Yes, it's good. Yes, it's a fascinating portrait of female power and agency, but we just skipped the really difficult bit - how do you save the sinking ship? How do you turn the things round so that by the end the descriptions of the Nunnery when Marie arrived are treated by the youngsters indulgently as stories - it could never have been that bad. It was and now it isn't, how you achieve that rescue, that;s the bit that takes drive, determination and imagination - all of which Marie clearly shows, but the author chose to focus on the easy bit - leading when things are going well. It's leading when things aren't gong well that the real test.
So yes, it's good, but it feels like the really good story got missed. ( )
  Helenliz | Jul 9, 2022 |
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"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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