Elle Magazine Previews Lauren Groff’s “Matrix”

An Exclusive First Look At Lauren Groff’s Matrix

The ‘Fates and Furies’ and ‘Florida’ author returns with her first novel since 2015.

By Lauren Puckett-Pope

The world in which Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies became a national phenomenon was decidedly different from 2021, at least on a surface level: The Atlantic declared 2015 “the best year in history for the average human being,” a laughable departure from our recent state of political and pandemic-born tohubohu. Yet the parallels to our current landscape were everywhere: the police killings of Walter Scott and Freddie Gray; the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston; the steady, creeping rot of racism, oppression, and misogyny permeating the fabric of our communities. Groff, the National Book Award-nominated mastermind who also imagined the worlds of Arcadia, Florida, and The Monsters of Templeton, is finally releasing her next novel, Matrix, this year, in a world she’d argue has not shifted as much—not in six years, not in hundreds—as we might think.

Matrix is set in the 12th century and follows real-life poet Marie de France, a 17-year-old cast out of the French royal court and sent to England to be the new prioress of an ailing abbey filled with sick and starving nuns. At first shocked by her new life but soon humbled by it, Marie finds purpose and spiritual fervor in this all-female enclave and commits herself to blazing a new trail for her devoted sisters. But her nation and era cannot make sense of a woman like her, and that shortness of vision could eclipse her dreams before she has the chance to nurture them.

In an ELLE.com exclusive, Groff reveals the cover for her new novel and dissects how writing about the past always reveals something about the present, too.

Your first novel since Fates and Furies takes a dramatic shift from your usual contemporary settings. How did you land on this particular setting and where did the idea first come to you?

I was actually working on a different novel, which is also historical in nature, about 1609 in the Americas. I was at a fellowship when I heard this incredible friend of mine, Dr. Katie Bugyis, give a speech on medieval nuns’ liturgical notes. I thought going in that it wasn’t something I would be interested in, and it just sort of exploded my brain. I had learned to read the romances of the 12th and 13th centuries in college, and it all came back to me. Matrix came out of Katie’s talk. This was also in the middle of the Trump presidency, and I was exhausted. I just wanted to live in a female utopia, not worrying about men at all. And how else could you do that but go back to a nunnery, back in the days of Benedictine enclosures, where you’re just surrounded by women? It was the right lecture at the right time, which just lit the wick. Read the full interview at Elle Magazine.

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