Book Review: The Harpy by Megan Hunter

The Harpy…

About the Book:

From the acclaimed author of The End We Start From, The Harpy is a fierce tale of love, betrayal and revenge.

Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy works from home but devotes 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, he wants her to know.

The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but in a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage, she will hurt him three times. Jake will not know when the hurt is coming, nor what form it will take.

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 by Megan Hunter 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 and revenge, of metamorphosis and renewal.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this novel. Told in a style of hindsight, we experience the story entirely from Lucy’s perspective, in such an intimate way, it’s almost as though we are inside Lucy, experiencing her pain, her anger, her insight, her self-doubt, and her self-loathing. I liked Lucy a lot, I understood her, the way in which she had given up her individual existence for motherhood and home-making, putting her own work last, her own needs to the bottom of the list. She did this without resentment, without self-pity; this I could understand as well.

When she finds out her husband is having an affair, lying to her about breaking it off, and then subsequently inferring that she has brought it onto herself, a dormant part of her character uncoils. The Harpy begins to rise within. A mythological creature that has long fascinated her since childhood, the Harpy taunts Lucy as she begins to unravel the mess her life has rapidly become. A repressed anger moves within her and she is motivated to hurt her husband as a form of reparation. He agrees, somewhat patronisingly, in my opinion.

I enjoyed this tale of revenge, and yes, I will admit it, I feel he got what he deserved in every instance. I have no time or sympathy for cheaters, so this story appealed to me instinctively. Lucy’s introspection of how her past may have shaped her present is broken up with passages about the Harpy: memories, facts, musings, until eventually, within herself, Lucy becomes the Harpy. The ending was surrealistic; open to interpretation. I would have preferred something more concrete and assured, although I certainly understood where the author was coming from: the illusion of an untethering, a ceremonial letting go, a reckoning between Lucy’s past, present, and her future.

I love the way in which Megan Hunter writes; her narrative is warmly intimate, engaging and immersive. I read this novel rather quickly without even realising I was doing so; the best kind of fiction. I’ll definitely be reading more of her work.


Thanks is extended to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy of The Harpy for review.

About the Author:

Megan Hunter’s first novel, The End We Start From, was published in 2017 in the UK, US, and Canada, and has been translated into eight languages. It was shortlisted for Novel of the Year at the Books Are My Bag Awards, longlisted for the Aspen Words Prize, was a Barnes and Noble Discover Awards finalist and won the Forward Reviews Editor’s Choice Award. Her writing has appeared in The White Review, The TLS, Literary Hub, BOMB Magazine and elsewhere. The Harpy is her second novel.

The Harpy
Published by Picador
Released on 29th September 2020

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Harpy by Megan Hunter

  1. It sounds intriguing. Ever since you posted you were reading it on instagram, the cover intrigued me too and I wanted to know what you thought. Maybe I’ll find the time to read it one day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Obviously, this book sounds intriguing and wonderful… but, I’m not going to lie, I’d buy it for that cover alone. What gorgeous artwork!! Thank you for making me feel better about my shameful cover judging by pointing out that there’s a decent story inside 😅

    Liked by 2 people

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