The Furies: Book summary and reviews of The Furies by Fernanda Eberstadt

The Furies
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2003,
    464 pages.

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Book Summary

Fernanda Eberstadt brings all her gifts of insight, feeling, and storytelling to bear on passion and the balance of power in marriage. She tells the story of a courtship of opposites, of a blissful love affair — and of how it turns into a marriage that helplessly self-destructs.

The place is Manhattan in the boom of the 1990s. Gwen Lewis thinks her life is perfect. She’s thirty, smart, high-achieving, single; she’s the director of an institute that’s helping post-Communist Russia democratize. She has family money, a condominium on the Upper West Side, and a suitable boyfriend, a banker.

Then she meets Gideon Wolkowitz. Gideon is an impoverished puppeteer who works in an anarchist squat on the Lower East Side: an impecunious sweet-talking huckster, a messianic dreamer, a seventies socialist throwback, a secular Jew. Gwen and Gideon fall desperately in love. Their sex is epic. Their love seems like a gift from the gods — destined to heal all wounds. Each is the child of a broken home; each fills the other’s unsuspected aching emptiness. The lovers hole up in Gwen’s apartment, feasting on stolen nights of ecstasy and confession.

Then Gwen gets pregnant and their romantic idyll is broken, and the angry ghosts of their ancestral pasts rise to claim them. Gwen is pulled into a Puritan devotion to work and motherhood that only a driven career woman or Massachusetts pilgrim could understand. Gideon, torn by his anger that Gwen has ended their sex life, by his native hatred of her "socialite" values and his love of the woman herself, begins to hear the call of shtetl ways and the synagogue. The reader watches helplessly as the divisive forces of money, worldly ambition, and self-will complete the shipwreck of Gwen and Gideon’s love.

A novel that wholly engages us by the depth of its understanding and the power of its storytelling.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"If the story is one that at first blush sounds familiar and even predictable, Eberstadt's no-mercy approach is unique and harrowing." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review.Eberstadt's mythic and piercing tragedy belongs beside the work of Franzen, Chabon, even DeLillo." - Booklist

"Unsparing...In a densely allusive, insistently metaphoric prose style, Eberstadt brilliantly employs a form of hectoring direct address to both her protagonists...[The] plot gains great depth from two exhaustively penetrating characterizations and from Ebersadt's virtual genius for ironically precise summary statement." - Kirkus Reviews

"Eberstadt's skills bring to mind the early A. S. Byatt (the darting, foxlike intelligence; the searing judgments), and her dissection of class differences has a physical urgency that lifts her characters above their schematic limitations. With psychological precision, she keeps her gaze—and ours—steady, as the lovers, through a combination of will and carelessness, tear themselves apart." - The New Yorker

"The novel's prose - taut, fresh and vividly descriptive - can be a positive delight. Like Tom Wolfe, Eberstadt is a precise and witty observer of life in Manhattan." - New York Times Book Review

"Fernanda Eberstadt is blessed with more gifts than any one writer should be. She saturates her novels with wantonly vivid imagery, creates characters more thoroughly realized than most people you know ...If you happen to be familiar with her chosen settings, whether hardscrabble New Hampshire or pampered New York, reconsidering them through her eyes can be a revelation." - The Washington Post

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Author Information

Fernanda Eberstadt Author Biography

Fernanda Eberstadt was born in New York City on November 10, 1960. Her maternal grandfather was the poet Ogden Nash. She is the daughter of the photographer and psychotherapist Frederick Eberstadt, who lives in New York City. Her mother was Isabel Nash Eberstadt, a writer, fashion figure, and patroness of the arts, who published two novels, appeared in Andy Warhol's Screen Tests and in Robert Wilson's opera Edison.

As a teenager, Eberstadt worked backstage at Balanchine's New York City Ballet, at Andy Warhol's Factory, and for Diana Vreeland at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum.

She was one of the first women to be accepted at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which she graduated with a Double First Class Honors degree in English Language and Literature in 1982.

In the 1980s, ...

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