Matrix by Lauren Groff is a welcome assault on readers’ sensibilities–in this case ears and eyes, to say nothing of minds. In uniquely syntaxed prose, lucid and almost cinematographic in the unfolding of her tale, Groff creates a 12th century world that relies on biblical, magical, witchcrafted and Arthurian legendary ingredients to blend her matrix. Matrix means “mother” in Latin and that is what Marie de France becomes for the hundreds of women who eventually dwell and work in her feminist utopia. Groff is a most gifted writer. It is with a poet’s grace and power that her tale, especially Marie’s splendid visions, soar for writer and reader alike. Marie arrives, an odd and resentfully smouldering adolescent at a poverty stricken abbey, populated by scarce, starving nuns and over decades turns it into a famous, small-scale, Vatican like religious institution. As Marie realizes on her deathbed “greatness was not the same as goodness.” But Groff knows that greatness makes for an engrossing read. And her readers are thankful.

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