Lauren Groff’s Matrix has nothing to do with the film franchise, but is instead a semi-fictional semi-biography of Marie de France, a poet who was a contemporary of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I say “semi” twice there because this is the kind of book that blurs the line between history and fiction. Like Hild, this is taking a real historical figure and doesn’t contradict what we know of that figure… but also we know virtually nothing whatsoever, so the author is free to just invent a life with the barest constraints on it.

And Hild is a good comparison for the feel of this book, too. Matrix is set later historically, but the thing it does similarly is set up a world of people with alien mindsets. The concerns of Marie are not the concerns a modern would have. Like, this is the story of her administration of a nunnery, and it’s a story about how competent women carved out a place for themselves in a world that tried hard to make that impossible (and Eleanor of Aquitaine is not an incidental presence in this book), but the characters don’t feel like modern feminists dropped back into a repressive time period—they’re largely people who are of their time.

If I’m being honest, I think Matrix does all this a little less well than Hild—modernity does leak in around the edges here—but I really super-loved Hild, and so if I liked this book a bit less, it’s still easy to recommend.


{{}} said {{timeAgo(comment.datetime)}}