Magpie by Sophie Draper

A1qo4jlEeNL._SY600_She’s married to him. But does she know him at all?

Claire lives with her family in a beautiful glass house overlooking the water. But she feels as if she’s married to a stranger – one who is leading a double life. As soon as she can get their son Joe away from him, she’s determined to leave Duncan.

But finding out the truth about Duncan’s secret life leads to consequences Claire never planned for. Now Joe is missing, and she’s struggling to piece together the events of the night that tore them all apart.

Alone in an isolated cottage, hiding from Duncan, Claire tries to unravel the lies they’ve told each other, and themselves. Something happened to her family … But can she face the truth?

Magpie is Draper’s second novel after Cuckoo, which was published in 2018 to rave reviews. Magpie begins as a psychological thriller about the Hendersons, a family with relationships that we’re all familiar with: a cheating husband, a paranoid wife, and a wayward son. Yet, it soon becomes clear that Draper is playing with genre as the book is simultaneously a mystery, a folk tale, a domestic noir, and a Gothic tale. In fact, the book’s setting is strongly reminiscent of Wuthering Heights as Claire lives in an isolated cottage in the midst of an atmospheric and haunting landscape complete with tales of a ghostly church that was submerged when the nearby reservoir was built and an abandoned village. These are important motifs of the past coming back to haunt the present. The often heavy focus on the setting could have stagnated the story but I found it very well written and very successful in conjuring images of the otherworldly. In addition, Claire feels like she is going mad looking for her missing son Joe and she questions her own sanity, again reminiscent of Wuthering Heights. It’s also a book about how we deal with grief and guilt, both in the distant past and in the more immediate past. The book isn’t a typical high-concept thriller with a very high-paced narrative, which contemporary readers have become accustomed to. Instead, Magpie is a very refreshing and satisfying read because of its slower pace and its focus on atmosphere rather than action.

The book is told in chapters that are set before and after the night that Joe disappeared from both Claire and Duncan’s point of views. The various timelines and perspectives are easy to follow and are never confusing with Claire’s chapters written in first person past tense and Duncan’s in third person present tense which offers a nice stylistic shift. The ‘before’ chapters describe Claire and Duncan’s turbulent marriage and their unhappy home life with their 18-year-old son. Claire is planning to leave Duncan and suspects him of having several affairs. The chapters often go back further in time to describe when Claire first met Duncan. The ‘after’ chapters are beautifully written as Claire is living on her own in a rundown house not too far from her family home. She was hoping to bring Joe with her but he disappeared when she was making her escape and she has no idea where he is. There’s also a storyline about a puppet rider coin that Joe found near the house that ends in a revelation that is quite sensitive and unexpected particularly as it’s an event that a lot of readers, including myself, have experienced for themselves. However, the topic is dealt with in a sensitive manner.

Magpie is a cleverly written and utterly engaging book unlike anything else I’ve read in a while. The title of the book is also quite clever as it not only refers to the motif of taking that which isn’t ours and being attracted to shiny objects, both of which are important themes in the book. This is the first of Draper’s books I’ve read but I can’t wait to read Cuckoo next.

Thank you to Sophie Draper, Avon, and Sabah Khan for inviting me to participate in the blog tour.

Kindle edition, 377 pages

Publication: November 28th 2019 by Avon

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About the author

Sophie 1 A4 usm (2)Sophie ‘s debut novel, CUCKOO, was published by Avon (HarperCollins) on 29th Nov 2018. It won the Bath Novel Award 2017 (as “The Pear Drum”) and the prestigious Friday Night Live competition at the York Festival of Writing 2017.

Her second book, MAGPIE, is due out on 28th November 2019.

Sophie lives with her family in Derbyshire, in a house filled with music, several cats, too many books and three growing boys. When not writing, Sophie works as a traditional oral storyteller. She was nominated for the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence 2013 (Outstanding Female Storyteller) and performs across the UK, telling stories for all ages at festivals, schools, historic houses, museums and community groups.

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