Early in Magpie, a twist comes that made me gasp out loud. And it’s the kind of twist that makes you re-evaluate everything you’ve read before ... We watch Marisa, Jake and Kate make choices that strain credibility or at least consistency of character. But realism isn’t the point. It’s not about how things are but how they feel — and the deeper truths that can be mined within that feeling ... The near-constant fever pitch of the narrative matches how it feels to be suffering through pregnancy anxiety, fears of romantic betrayal, in-law strife, body horror. And the spiraling energy at the center of the novel captures the way fertility struggles can serve as a tripwire, upturning everything else in one’s life ... The dilemma with such novels, however, is that once you’ve raised the pitch that high, once all bets are off and narrators have shown their inevitable unreliability, how do you bring it home in a satisfying way? ... Day opts for a third act that is more grounded, even conciliatory. Loose ends are tied and problematic characters exiled. At first, it feels like a deflation: a grand opera culminating in a needle scratch. But we can’t forget what’s come before and Day lets it hang over the novel’s final moments like a creeping shadow.
Infertility, surrogacy, sexual assault, mental illness and a lot of desirable housing stock might seem too much for one book, but with her new novel, Magpie, Elizabeth Day pulls off a polished and creepy thriller which probes at the heart of what it means to be able to conceive a child – or not ... Magpie...is a clever novel. After settling into its initial disturbing narrative, the central surprise is a reversal akin to that employed by Lauren Groff in Fates and Furies ... On the surface light, bright and breezy, invoking the perfect lives Marisa and Kate both yearn for, it is capable of packing considerable punches ... The book is not without its moments of absurdity and caustic wit ... While Day does not specifically explore the full complexity of surrogacy as a feminist/political issue – it is not that type of book – her depiction of obsession and of the sometimes disastrous psychological effects arising from unfulfilled needs is highly plausible.
When the viewpoint abruptly shifts from Marisa’s to Kate’s, Magpie becomes an altogether less predictable, more volatile story, one that revolves around the all-consuming longing and sadness of infertility, and the desperate lengths to which it can drive people ... It’s hard to do justice to her treatment of these themes without spoilers. Cannily, the tense, ultimately cathartic psychological drama that ensues explains away any shakier-seeming aspects of the book’s first section ... Day’s cleverness lies in fashioning from these ingredients a pacy, stylish thriller in which suspense is accompanied by fist-pumping feminism and, perhaps toughest of all, hope.
The wealth of wisdom [Day] has accumulated through her non-fiction work manifests powerfully in Magpie, which is constructed upon thoughtful, clear-sighted examinations of the difficult themes of infertility and mental health ... To say anything further regarding the plot would be to undermine the exquisite reading experience – the less you know before you start, the better. Suffice to say, it has all of the misdirection, suspense and intrigue of the best psychological thrillers ... Fully realised, complicated and completely distinct from each other, Kate and Marisa come alive on the page and make for compulsive reading. If the trope of Jake’s territorial mother-in-law feels a little tired, the woman herself is written with acerbic wit and does ultimately earn her keep as a pivotal player in these high-stake games ... There is a stylish tone to Day’s prose that ensures a luxurious reading experience, even as the pace intensifies. With a great eye for detail, the world of the book is textured, sensuous and captured with flair. Occasionally this strength does ultimately weaken the work when the detailing of physical description becomes overloaded ... Diversions from an authentic emotional state, however, to focus on interior decoration or clothing, can pull the reader out of the narrative and feel like an intrusion of the authorial voice. Nonetheless, Day’s thriller is undoubtedly elevated by the wordy pictures that she paints ... Throughout Magpie, the author expertly unspools the tension to achieve an atmosphere of suspense that compels the engaging plot forward. To achieve this while tackling weighty topics of fertility, mental health and motherhood with nuance, grace and empathy is a remarkable achievement ... Day has written a psychological thriller that offers all the entertainment of an exciting suspense novel, while also managing to create an overarching feeling of optimism for the human spirit and raising important, thought-provoking questions along the way. At once both creepy and comforting, Magpie proves to be provocative yet life-affirming. And it offers at least two magpies worth of joy.
The opening of Magpie is decidedly creepy ... Her handling of narrative is pacy and assured. Indeed, so compulsive is this book that there were times when, however quickly I read, it wasn’t fast enough. There is much talk on the book’s jacket about the twist, which is indeed electric, so much so that I had to go back and re-read the central section once my desire for plot had been sated ... The final third, by comparison, is less taut, although no less fascinating ... Magpie’s descriptions are often disturbingly memorable ... Day writes with hair-raising accuracy on the madnesses of fertility and pregnancy, infertility and miscarriage, love and longing ... Thank goodness that Magpie is funny, too ... It is perhaps a shame that Jake is left somewhat sketchy, as overshadowed by his mother in personality as he is by the mechanics of the plot. Marisa and Kate, too, exist more fully in their recollections of the past than they seem to in the present. Still, if we don’t ever quite seem to know these two women, at least not in the way their old friends do, perhaps that is the point.
Clever ... As well as being a compelling literary thriller, Magpie offers an intimate, unflinching portrait of infertility, laying bare the pain and heartache of struggling to conceive ... The women of Day’s novel are for the most part brilliantly formed ... But as Magpie progresses, she tends to favour plot over character. Jake remains a one-dimensional figure, perhaps by design to stir suspense around his motives. The storyline about Marisa’s family is abandoned, while a return to her viewpoint later in the novel would have helped ground the conclusion ... The midway change in perspective also changes the pace, as the story slows down before reaching a subdued climax and an ending that feels too tidy and too easy, following the twisty, gasp-worthy narrative that preceded it. Yet after 300 pages that veer between tense thriller, psychological drama and moments of almost Gothic horror, such optimism may be welcome.
... tautly woven, emotionally resonant ... a twisty, subversive suspense story that, in addition to being a compelling mystery, employs real-world, complicated issues to ramp up the tension. Day writes about the struggles of fertility, fertility treatments and the invasive questions and suggestions of others with great wisdom, clarity and compassion. Her control of Marisa's and Kate's emotions, motivations and aspirations never once lets up, even as each woman oscillates between obsession, depression, paranoia and even outright cruelty ... Day deals with seriously complex and difficult subjects, including mental illness, but she handles each element with great sensitivity while never detracting from the nail-biting suspense. Her twists and turns are shocking, unpredictable and often nerve-wracking. And her use of pregnancy --- literally the taking over of a woman’s body --- as a metaphor and a literal fact is relentlessly clever, resulting in tonal shifts from the sinister to the claustrophobic and even the euphoric ... If I have a single complaint about Magpie, it’s that the ending felt rushed and a bit too tidy. Day played so effortlessly with her brilliant characters, casting each of them as the villain at one point or another, that the dainty bow she wraps them in at the conclusion feels too convenient and not up to the standard she set earlier in the book. That said, this is a necessary and deeply suspenseful thriller that will make Day a quick favorite among readers of Lisa Jewell, Sarah Vaughan and Katherine Faulkner.
This domestic thriller from Day serves up a dramatic plot twist that will leave readers questioning everything ... Marisa is a sympathetic character, but when the point of view switches to Kate’s, things take a sharp turn. To say anything more would be too much, but know that Day offers a page-turner that lightly incorporates mental health and infertility. While it may be unrealistic, it’s also highly readable, and fans of the genre will gobble it up.
Clever ... Day successfully turns the narrative on its head in the second half, which tells the whole story very differently from Kate’s point of view. She also cannily subverts a few tired tropes to create a convincing final act, with a twist rooted in clues that were there all along. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this.