Tuesday 22 September 2020

The Harpy by Megan Hunter - Book Review

Amanda Kennedy

Description from Goodreads: 

Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy has set her career aside in order to devote her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy’s husband, Jake. The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but make a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage–she will hurt him three times.

As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.

Told in dazzling, musical prose, The Harpy is a dark, staggering fairy tale, at once mythical and otherworldly and fiercely contemporary. It is a novel of love, marriage and its failures, of power, control and revenge, of metamorphosis and renewal.

I’ve had some difficulty writing this review, despite having finished reading a few weeks ago. Perhaps this is because my own feelings towards the subject matter are difficult to unravel.

I can’t help feeling that Megan Hunter *knows* what it feels like to be the victim of infidelity: the twisting of the insides, a change of self-perception and perception of a partner which is thrust upon you, how nothing is the same once you know. The language is absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking in it’s depiction of the breakdown of a marriage which means we simply can’t look away from the page. It is a short book, easily read in a long afternoon and interspersed with a sense of dark magic as the narrator hearkens back to her more youthful interests of the Harpy in Greek Mythology and her feelings of transformation into a cruel, mythical being.

Unfortunately, I felt a little let down by the ending. The last 20% or so took a steeply dramatic turn which ended in a dream-like sequence which I found difficult to blend with what had come before. It felt jarring and “unlikely”, which may well have been the deliberate intention, though it left me feeling robbed of what could have been a perfect book. I’ll round up my rating to 4 stars, though my realistic rating is 3.5. I wish I could have given it more.

The Harpy by Megan Hunter is available now in all good bookstores.

Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on 22nd September 2020, Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Amanda Kennedy / Book Blogger, Writer & Editor

Amanda is a lifelong learner and book lover who lives in the North of England with her family and several cats. She writes book reviews, literary news and bookish articles here on All My Pretty Books.

To learn more about Amanda's own work, visit her personal website.


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