The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Published by Picador, available now.

Firstly I am not really 100% sure what category I would put the Harpy in. Is it fantasy? Is it Gothic? A domestic novel? Contemporary or thriller? I just don’t know, it may in fact have a touch of all those genres, either that or Megan Hunter has just created a genre all of her own.

I lift the razor and a fairy-tale drop of blood escapes from under the silver. The colours are the brightest I have ever seen: stark and cartoon-like, white skin and sea-blue shirt and dark red, rolling and seeking. He doesn’t make a sound.

The story’s narrator is Lucy, she is married to Jake and they have two young boys, she works from home and takes care of much of the domestic chores whilst Jake is at work at the local university. An enviable life you may think, a woman that on the outside has the perfect life and maybe she does until she finds out Jake has been having a passionate affair with a work colleague called Vanessa. This bombshell shatters the illusion of the life they have been living and Lucy has to try and find a way of coming to terms with her husband’s infidelity. Rather disturbingly, they decide between themselves that Lucy can hurt Jake three times, whenever she wants and in any manner she wishes. It is at this point Lucy embodies the role of The Harpy, the mythical creature that brings down misery and punishment on men in the form of spoiling a feast through poisoning, the stealing of possessions and finally torture, as a lifelong admirer of The Harpy, Lucy’s life seems to become entwined with that of the half woman half bird fantasy legend. Unfortunately it is easy for things to go too far and become out of control, just as Lucy’s life seems to be spiralling beyond her grasp she must do her best to try and regain some kind of control.

The whole concept of The Harpy and the intention of setting out to purposefully hurt someone is deeply disturbing and sinister but Megan writes so beautifully that it is, at times, difficult to feel anything but wonder at what is a most despicable creature. The story is so well crafted, I loved the poetic nature of the words that at times almost lifted from the page and how the story of the Harpy so effortlessly intertwined with the story of Lucy and Jake.

The Harpy is such a unique kind of book, for me, it is a work of enormous skill and genius, I loved the concept of the story and as I have said before it is so beautifully written. It is dark and twisted with a touch of the unsettling about it, but WOW, it is one hell of a read!