The Harpy

Author(s): Hunter, Megan

Novel | Read our reviews!

A marriage, a betrayal and a punishment. Meet Lucy, wife and mother, mid-30s. She’s put her career on hold for the children — never finished her PhD — and works part-time editing on contract. It fits in with the children. Jake is her charming husband and life is good, even if they can’t afford their own home in the increasingly expensive suburbs. A message from David Holmes breaks the fairytale. Jake’s been having an affair with a work colleague (David’s wife Vanessa). Lucy is understandably shocked and an inner rage starts to build. To save the marriage Lucy and Jake make a deal. She can hurt him three times unexpectedly and without any discussion. Life carries on and the hurts are dealt out. Yet Lucy, despite her best intentions to play her roles, particularly for the boys, becomes incensed by the reactions of her husband, the other parties involved, and the neighbours. As she hosts the neighbourhood pre-Christmas party she becomes increasingly aware of the double standards of her community. Jake is as popular as ever, while she is either maligned or pitied by his actions. This would be another relationship drama about motherhood, wifedom and sacrifice if it wasn’t for Hunter’s superb writing style, which invites you into Lucy’s world in episodic fragments — rich and nuanced — and the mythical fascination that Lucy has with the harpy — that monstrous, powerful bird-woman, a creature she has been curious about since childhood. And her childhood, the impact of parental behaviour, is a pivotal aspect of this novel. Under Lucy’s skin claws a beast, a rage, adamant to be heard and seen. When the punishment crosses the line, her revenge tips out of control. Will she be consumed by her rage or will her rage avenge the wrongs perpetrated upon her? This is brilliant and, like her first book, The End We Start From, the language is pointed, sparse and beautiful — taut and finely tuned. The Harpy is an exploration of love, revenge and female rage, drawing on mythology and the dark recesses of the psyche with precision and spine-chilling unease, set in the normality of the suburban middle-class home.


From the acclaimed author of The End We Start From, The Harpy is a fierce tale of love, betrayal and revenge. 'The Harpy is brilliant . . . A deeply unsettling, excellent read.' Daisy Johnson 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.

Review: The Harpy is brilliant. Hunter imbues the everyday with apocalyptic unease. A deeply unsettling, excellent read. -- Daisy Johnson, Man Booker-shortlisted author of Everything Under
In The Harpy, Hunter has articulated female rage in a way that lives on in your bones and in your gut. A genuinely thrilling read, one long beautiful scream. -- Evie Wyld
The Harpy is an almost perfect book. The premise is so simple, and the execution so flawless . . . I've talked about it more than anything else I've read so far this year: I love explaining the set-up to friends and watching their eyes widen. It's so dark and so much fun. -- Kristen Roupenian, author of Cat Person
Sentence after sentence made my skin bump. Not just with what the sentence said, but because the writing was so very, very good. It's a brilliant piece of work. -- Cynan Jones, author of Cove
Utterly compelling . . . so precise and darkly truthful. I thought it succeeding in illuminating - with flair and originality - the damage done by betrayal. -- Esther Freud
I was utterly spellbound. Her dark humour and pointillist prose puts her in league with Lydia Davis and Jenny Offil, masterfully rendering the emotional shock of a protagonist finding her life has become story. -- Olivia Sudjic, author of Sympathy
sharp, timely and darkly funny novel about maternal love and sacrifice, and the incandescent rage that festers beneath it. Hunter's writing is beautiful and spare, uncanny and hilarious. I utterly loved it. -- Luiza Sauma, author of Flesh and Bone and Water
beautifully written, viscerally disturbing novel that turns the narrative of the cheated-on wife on its head -- Laura Kaye, author of English Animals
The Harpy is a taut and lyrical novel about cosily calibrated lives coming spectacularly undone. Compulsively absorbing yet otherworldly, both a fever dream and a gorgeous and alarming howl of rage. -- Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti
In hungry, restless prose, Megan Hunter tears apart the seam between motherhood and the monstrous. She confronts the fear of female anger and asks us what happens when pain that has been swallowed through generations begins to rush to the surface. -- Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater
Megan Hunter effortlessly compels us to feel both heartbreak and the momentary gratification of revenge . . . devastating in its evocation of the expense and sometimes fatal strain of passion, grief, and rage.' -- Susanna Moore, author of In the Cut
On one level it is the psychological excavation of a suburban marriage on the rocks, on another, a spell to summon primeval feminine power. Above all, it is prose informed by poetry . . . a brilliant and eviscerating work of literary fiction * Review 31 *
A fiery tale of infidelity . . . she manages to elevate her story to something that is at once rooted in the everyday and effortlessly transcends it . . . a gripping, psychologically astute account of a relationship in free-fall * Scotsman *
Hunter writes viscerally and incisively about the taboos of female desire and rage . . . [a] striking, pared-down modern myth * Daily Mail *
Megan Hunter's potent contemporary fable about the enduring taboo of female fury becomes especially relevant. Every bit as riveting as her debut The End We Start From . . . the ensuing drama blends mythic motifs with pointed swipes at modern motherhood's double binds. * Guardian *
With shades of Carmen Maria Machado and Karen Russell, Hunter turns in an unforgettable magical realist story of power, revenge, and transformation. * Esquire *



Author Biography: 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 publications including The White Review, The TLS, Literary Hub, and BOMB Magazine. She lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband, son and daughter.

Promotional Information: From the acclaimed author of The End We Start From, The Harpy is the story of a marriage, an affair, and a very particular kind of revenge.


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Product Information

General Fields

  • : 9781529010213
  • : Picador UK
  • : Picador UK
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Hunter, Megan
  • : Hardback