From the author of Fates and Furies. Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, 17-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.
Groff is a heavily allusive writer whose narratives typically carry a freight of sophisticated references. In her new novel, Matrix, the work of Marie de France...provides Groff a literary springboard into a past whose features offer a mirror to our own time ... Perhaps the greatest pleasure of this novel is also its most subtle. Groff is a gifted writer capable of deft pyrotechnics and well up to the challenges she sets herself ... One senses she doesn’t so much struggle to create her vision but is borne aloft on it, which is the page-by-page pleasure as we soar with her.
Now that we’ve endured almost two years of quarantine and social distancing, [Groff's] new novel about a 12th-century nunnery feels downright timely ... We need a trusted guide, someone who can dramatize this remote period while making it somehow relevant to our own lives. Groff is that guide largely because she knows what to leave out. Indeed, it’s breathtaking how little ink she spills on filling in historical context ... Though Matrix is radically different from Groff’s masterpiece, Fates and Furies, it is, once again, the story of a woman redefining both the possibilities of her life and the bounds of her realm ... Although there are no clunky contemporary allusions in Matrix, it seems clear that Groff is using this ancient story as a way of reflecting on how women might survive and thrive in a culture increasingly violent and irrational.
... an inspiring novel that truly demonstrates the power women wield, regardless of the era. It has sisterhood, love, war, sex — and many graphic deaths, all entangled in a once-forgotten abbey in the English countryside ... With masterful wordplay and pacing, Groff builds what could have been a mundane storyline into something quite impossible to put down. The writing itself is a demonstration of power. Eschewing direct dialogue and traditional chapters for a three-part structure, the story starts slow but then picks up the pace, barreling through Marie's years at the convent ... The novel's prose is well constructed and filled with strong imagery that will remain embedded in your subconscious days later ... Her use of short but not entirely quick sentences, particularly at the start of the novel, is a tricky way of pacing a story that is written in such a formal tone ... Her allusions to female pleasure — such as masturbation and oral sex — are done as stealthily as her allusions to heinous actions such as rape, almost like a whisper that you might miss if you're not paying attention. But there are instances where allusions are not enough, and she is graphic, leaving little to the imagination when discussing death and sickness ... exposes the complexity of being a woman living in a world where men make all the rules, regardless of the era. But it also may leave you wondering whether this is a story about one woman's feminist aspirations — or her overzealous ambition.