The Harpyby Megan Hunter
Part revenge tale, part fairy tale, The Harpy is an electrifying story of marriage, infidelity, and power by the author of the #1 Indie Next Pick The End We Start From, Megan Hunter
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.
“The Harpy is an almost perfect book. The premise is so simple, and the execution so flawless. It feels like a fairy tale not only because of its aura of mystery and the purity of its structure, but because the story itself is so fundamental you could imagine it being told and re-told in a thousand different forms. In a way, the book feels more discovered than crafted, like the manuscript ought to have been found locked in a trunk in an attic somewhere, or translated off an an old rock slab. 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 You Know You Want This
“In The Harpy, a confession of a woman who refuses to inhabit the world under false pretenses, Megan Hunter effortlessly compels us to feel both heartbreak and the momentary gratification of revenge. It is a book about love and betrayal — that between husband and wife, and parent and child — and it is devastating in its evocation of the expense and sometimes fatal strain of passion, grief, and rage.”—Susanna Moore, author of In the Cut
“This is so up my alley. Reading Megan’s fiction feels like her own description of donning glasses for the first time and looking again at an ordinary scene to see that it is not at all ordinary. Her use of language too is deceptive in that way — seemingly simple and yet so acute and complex. Reading The Harpy I was utterly spellbound. Her dark humour and pointillist prose put her in league with Lydia Davis and Jenny Offill, masterfully rendering the emotional shock of a protagonist finding her life has become story.”—Olivia Sudjic
“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
“Both timeless and timely, The Harpy is a taut and lyrical novel about cozily calibrated lives coming spectacularly undone. Compulsively absorbing yet otherworldly, both a fever dream and a gorgeous and alarming howl of rage. Megan Hunter is a distinctive force of talent who portrays scenes of marriage, young parenthood, and mutable womanhood in fierce and fresh ways.”—Sharlene Teo
“A beautifully written, viscerally disturbing novel that turns the narrative of the cheated-on wife on its head.”—Laura Kaye
“A 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
“Brilliant. Hunter imbues the everyday with apocalyptic unease. A deeply unsettling, excellent read.”―Daisy Johnson
“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
“A husband negotiates forgiveness of a betrayal for his wife’s freedom to exact three instances of revenge. The specter of what and when they will be hangs over them both. Intense and oh, so imaginative, this story captivated me from the first page.”—Gillian Kohli, Wellesley Books (Wellesley, MA)
“In her spare, stylish debut novel, The End We Start From, Megan Hunter depicts new motherhood against a climate- change cataclysm in which city-swallowing floods tip England into chaos… wonderfully earthy.”―Megan O’Grady, Vogue
“In elegiac lines, Hunter tells a love story through the eyes of a new mother, who witnesses the death of an old life and the start of a new one… a perfect portrait of rebirth the final testament that time, and life, do go on, despite our best efforts.”—Cotton Codinha, Elle
“Extraordinary… A spare, futuristic fable about a brand-new mother navigating a flooded world. While it’s written with poetic reticence, it paints an expansive and moving portrait of the struggles and celebrations that any new parent faces against a backdrop that feels at once like a distant nightmare and an all-too-probable consequence of climate change.”―Chloe Schama, Vogue.com, “What To Read this Fall”
“You can’t escape the rise of dystopia in fiction… But Megan Hunter’s slim, poetic leap into the chaotic near-future feels the most plausible and, possibly for that reason, the most devastating.”—NPR, “Best Fiction of 2017”
“Poetic and succinct, Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From is an etiological exercise for a climate-changed world — a post-apocalyptic novel in which current human mistakes are followed forward to dismaying ends… Though the story is marked by incredible loss, the hope beyond the devastation is worth holding on for. Hunter’s is an uncommon disaster tale — lovely, intimate, and foreboding.”―Michelle Anne Schingler, Forward Reviews
“The postapocalyptic literary novel is currently in vogue almost to the point of redundancy, but Hunter’s slim yet sharp debut offers a level of precision and interiority rarely seen in the genre… Rather than focus on the specifics of the catastrophe, the story instead becomes an investigation of the tumultuous internal life of a new mother… Told in a voice that is by turns meditative, desperate, and hopeful, this novel showcases Hunter’s considerable talents and range.”―Publishers Weekly
“A sophisticated, extreme and timely articulation of how the world can fall away via intense feelings of love and the bonds of family, this book emphasizes how those connections can offer salvation when everything feels hopeless.”—Stacey May Fowles, Globe and Mail
“The End We Start From is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, in that it shares the same narrative detachment, and the same precise poetry. It is of course told from the perspective of a mother, rather than a father, and is set in a world that is only beginning to fall into chaos… Megan Hunter’s remarkable debut novel feels like the other half of the story.”―Financial Times
“A short, haunting story about the end of days, sparse, beautiful and heroic.”―Evie Wyld, Observer
“Startlingly poetic… Hunter writes with delicacy and precision; her imagery is pearlescent in places. It’s a sliver of a novel, but it shimmers.”―Natasha Tripney, Guardian, “Best Debut Fiction”
“Ambitious, original and disturbing.”―Fanny Blake, Daily Mail, “Best Debuts”
“The End We Start From by Megan Hunter is a short, concentrated book — a shot of distilled story, like the pulp of a tale boiled to a thick spiced paste… With passages from mythology interspersed with its imagined future, the book is engrossing, compelling and finally hopeful.”—Naomi Alderman’s Book of the Year (Summer books 2017 in the Financial Times)
“Motherhood is an immersive experience and Hunter is brilliant on the urgency of it… Hunter traces—with expert precision and such lyricism—who we are when life is minimized. How we respond under pressure, when time is measured in terms of where the next meal will come from… Formally, and by placing motherhood at the center of the narrative, there is an echo of Jenny Offill’s Dept of Speculation… It is a highly interior story, in the hands of a narrator of great skill. As an exploration of motherhood, it’s a visceral, poetic confession. There is an extra resonance in reading The End We Start From in uncertain Brexit/Trump times — and who can say whether this is a worse dystopia than either of those? But there is a postdiluvian hope on these pages. There is meaning in community, in simple things, and in words and family. A world can be as small as three people, but it can contain multitudes.”―Sinéad Gleeson, Irish Times
“[A] strange and haunting novella-cum-prose poem… Oddly familiar, both to the narrator and to the reader, all the dystopian fiction that’s come before filling in the ellipses in Hunter’s narrative… Virginia Woolf does cli-fi… I found myself picturing scenes from Alfonso Cuaron’s film Children of Men while I read, Hunter’s narrative evoking a similar balance between the commonplace and the alien — of everyday life in a world that’s recognizably our own, but as seen through a glass darkly… The beating heart of this tender and tremendous story is without doubt Hunter’s portrait of early motherhood, an all-encompassing world of its own.”―Lucy Scholes, Independent (UK)
“A new take on the [dystopian] genre, this startling debut combines utter despair with the reality of family life… Megan Hunter’s prose is beautiful and insightful. Everyone who reads this will come away feeling renewed.”—Sharmaine Lovegrove, Elle (UK)