Image result for the harpy megan hunterThe Harpy is not a quiet novel so much as it is a simmering one. Confronted by her husband’s infidelity, Lucy is left discombobulated, unsure what, exactly, she is supposed to do. There is a lot in this novel about the small but accumulative indignities of motherhood, the way Lucy constantly feels subject to the barbs of not being enough: as a mother, as a wife, as a homemaker. In particular, she struggles to address a low-level malaise and restlessness that seem to pervade the routines of her very middle-class, very unexceptional everyday life.

“In this place, most husbands had highly paid jobs, travelled a lot. Most wives, despite their multiple degrees, did all the school runs, counted the days until their men returned from Stockholm or Singapore. When something broke through – a disease, a death, a divorce – it was like a meteorite, something cosmic landing in our lives.”

And then, in the midst of all this already-existing turmoil, Lucy finds herself thrust in the role of the Cheated-On Woman. “Role,” here, is a resonant word, for Lucy is keenly aware that the story of her husband’s infidelity belongs to the wider, all-too-common story of husbands cheating on their wives. How, then, is she to act? How to absorb the shock of this revelation into the the family she has with her husband, her two young sons? The novel as a whole is an answer to those questions, though it’s certainly not a simple or uncomplicated one.

“I could not think of a way to confront Jake that did not feel scripted, stilted, too cheesy or on the nose. I could fling myself at him, pummel his chest with my fists, demand that he tell me everything. I could, carefully and without crying, cut every single one of his work shirts into shreds.”

Tying these themes together is the harpy, a creature from Greek and Roman mythology, a winged predator, half-woman, half-bird. Hunter’s choice to align Lucy’s unexceptional life with this exceptional creature is compelling—more importantly, though, it works. It gives what might’ve otherwise been a trite, overdone story an edge and a more fresh outlook.

“Nobody thinks they will become that woman until it happens. They walk down the street, knowing it will never be them.

They have no idea how it is: like the turning of a foot on a crack in the pavement, the slip of an ankle from the kerb, a falling, a single instant, the briefest action, changing it all.”

Though I typically tend to avoid novels that seem to be about people wallowing in their sadness because their (fairly privileged) middle-class lives are too boring for them :(((, I didn’t find that to be the case with The Harpy. It kept me engaged, and I really sympathized with Lucy. It’s a short novel with short chapters and writing that is simple but effective, one that, in the end, is about identity and violence as they intersect and unfold in the realms of motherhood and marriage.

Thanks so much to Grove Atlantic for providing me with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!


Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram




The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

I feel like I liked this book more than a 3-star rating would have you believe, but I also didn’t like it enough to give it more than a 3 stars?

First thing’s first: Samantha Harvey can write. I read the The Shapeless Unease by her earlier this year and was so impressed by her sharp, affecting writing. That same writing is definitely present in The Western Wind, though more pared down so as to better service its story.

I’m not sure what to say about this novel, to be honest. The story starts out as an ostensibly simple one: a man has died, and a community must reckon with that death. But the narrative structure with which Harvey chooses to tell her story turns it into something much more complex. In particular, The Western Wind is preoccupied with time, with its linearity and circularity, the ways in which it is at once perishable yet continually recurring.

The atmosphere Harvey creates is especially memorable. The more you read this novel, the more you feel as though everything in this community hangs on a precipice, as if something monumental is about to happen. And yet the monumental has already happened: a man has died. But Harvey doesn’t let up the tension. The fact that the narrative is told in reverse chronological order–so that in the beginning of the novel you already know how it’s going to end–and yet still manages to surprise you with revelations the further on you read is truly impressive.

Yet as much as I praise this novel, like I said, I can’t give it more than a 3 stars. It was a little too slow for me, and I just wanted a bit more substance to its characters. Nevertheless, this is a finely honed novel and I can’t wait to see what Samantha Harvey writes next.


Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram



Transcendent Kingdom felt less like a novel and more like an exploration of ideas. As an exploration of ideas, it was solid. I enjoyed reading about Gifty’s thoughts and musings on religion and science, especially when she connected them to her work in neuroscience. Instead of simply privileging one over the other, or discounting one in favour of the other, Gyasi devotes time to examining both as complex entities with a considerable impact on Gifty and her perspective.

As a narrative, though, Transcendent Kingdom really fell short for me. The story was too discombobulated, going back and forth between the past and the present in a way that was disorienting more than anything else. What little narrative this book had was made all the more fragmented and confusing by moving so quickly and frequently between those two timelines. The result was a novel that felt like it was about someone thinking about their life and philosophy, as opposed to an actual story about that person. The distinction is an important one, and what ultimately let this book down.

(Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!)


Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram