If someone asked me what genre I read most, it would be hard to give a straight answer. I like a lot of different types of books and I like variety more than any single one of them. It’s easier for me to answer a question about which genres I avoid – anything really fluffy, romance, historical fiction, young adult, Reese’s Book Club to name a few – but even then, I don’t avoid any all of them time or completely. In fact, I’ve read one book to satisfy nearly all of those categories this year. Because even when a style isn’t my cup of tea, I can be persuaded to give a particular title a try.
Something about Magpie by Elizabeth Day really appealed to me. It definitely falls into a category that isn’t my usual go to. We’ll call it female psychological thrillers. Don’t get me wrong, I have read some really great books that would be similarly labeled. I thought Then She Was Gone and I See You were really good and The Girl on the Train still haunts me. The problems with the genre as a whole for me are that A. after a while they become a little formulaic and B. that formula always, always, always seems to involve either a high or really high degree of gaslighting targeting women which sometimes makes me more than a little uncomfortable.
I can’t say that complaint A really applied to Magpie, but complaint B did make an appearance.
But, let’s start from the start. Here’s the summary:
Marisa and Jake are a perfect couple. And Kate, their new lodger, is the perfect roommate—and not just because her rent payments will give them the income they need to start trying for the baby of their dreams.
Except—no one is truly perfect. Sure, Kate doesn’t seem to care much about personal boundaries and can occasionally seem overly-familiar with Jake. But Marisa doesn’t let it concern her, knowing that soon Kate will be gone, and it will just be her, Jake, and their future baby.
Conceiving a baby is easier said than done, though, and Jake and Marisa’s perfect relationship is put to the test through months of fertility treatments and false starts. To make matters worse, Kate’s boundary-pushing turns into an all-out obsession—with Jake, with Marisa, and with their future child. Who is this woman? Why does she seem to know everything about Marisa and Jake?
In her quest to find out who Kate really is, Marisa might destroy everything she’s worked so hard to create—her perfect romance, her perfect family, and her perfect self.
Jake doesn’t know the half of what Marisa has created—and what she stands to lose.
What’s really remarkable is how well written this synopsis is because on the other side of reading this book, I can’t imagine that I could have written one that was so thorough yet lacking in spoilers. Gold star to whoever did this! ⭐️
So, yeah, we begin with Jake and Marisa living happily ever in their new home and expecting their first child. Then, in comes Kate, who is ready to rain on everyone’s parade. She’s audacious, she’s hot, she has no consideration for what’s hers and what isn’t. Marisa recognizes early on that this is going to be a problem and takes immediate action to set the record straight on how things are going to be. As any reader of this genre knows, that isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds.
Magpie is divided into two very distinct parts. In the first, we meet the players: Jake, Marisa, Kate, Marisa’s best friend, Jake’s parents. We get a feel for Kate and Marisa’s personal histories and understand that life hasn’t been easy for either of them. From there, everything kind of goes haywire. There’s a twist because OF COURSE THERE IS and we wouldn’t be here without one. I think Day did a great job of amping up the suspense and keeping the reader guessing. I know that I never really suspected the ending to be what it was, but, if I’m honest, I wasn’t overly satisfied with it. The greater thrill came midway through – there is a moment when you will, quite literally, gasp.
I was curious about the magpie symbolism, as I’m not super familiar with magpies in general. When I looked it up, I found that, historically, magpies have been considered tricksters and opportunists. The authour was clearly considering that in her title. Magpies do make a few appearances in the book, although not overly significantly. And, to set the record straight, modern beliefs about magpies are that they represent good luck and prosperity. Let their name be cleared!
Overall, Magpie was a wholly enjoyable read. There was at least one pretty significant and totally unexpected twist while still playing within some truly real and relatable themes of mental health, fertility and family relations. It was a creative idea and storyline that was executed to a tee.
I received Magpie as both a book and a digital advanced copy and I would like to thanks Simon and Schuster for both, Netgalley for the online version. Magpie was released back in September 2021 in the UK, but will be out in North American bookstores on May 3rd. If you’re itching for a thrill, this would be a great book to get your hands on.