Published September 3rd 2020 by Picador Books.
Many thanks to the publishers for sending me a proof copy to read and review.
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.
This is a dark and poetically emotional short story, about how Lucy, the main character, falls apart after learning that her husband has been having an affair with an older woman from work.
Lucy, who I felt was already re-evaluating her role as wife and mother to two young children, boredom, self confidence and self esteem, all being considered, receives a phone call from a man, claiming that Jake, her husband, is having an affair with his wife. When Jake is confronted by Lucy he admits that this is true, insists that it is now finished and allows Lucy 3 opportunities to hurt Jake in return.
These punishments links to Lucy’s childhood obsession with Harpies. Mythical monsters in Greek mythology, that had the form of a bird with a female human head, who were often agents of punishment to the guilty. Hence, I must add here, the gorgeously stunning cover. Check it out, it’s fabulous.
The book has a very dream like atmosphere in parts. Where it flips from well written accounts of Lucy’s day to day life, that I think a lot of women in long-term relationships with children could relate to, to very poetic, literary writing of Lucy, her mental state and her feelings and connections to the Harpy.
I found the descriptions of Lucy’s more ‘lucid’ day to day life very well written and felt, if continued, could have turned into an interesting longer psychological drama. The more dream like scenes were a very different read. Lucy’s voice is strong and her change was dramatic to read of. The only part I seemed to miss was the transition. I found little flow between the two narratives and therefore missed connecting the two parts of Lucy together. This however could quiet easily been my issue and not the authors.
I thought that this was a unique take on the story of a husband’s affair that looks very microscopically on the affect it has on the wife.
A different read, but one that I think many will enjoy.