Book Reviews / Books

Magpie Book Review

09.17.21
Magpie by Elizabeth Day Book Review

I’ve long been a fan of Elizabeth Day’s; ever since I first started listening to her brilliant and beloved podcast, How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. She’s without a doubt one of my go-to writers, and is something of a literary rarity given her command of both fiction and non-fiction. Thus, it was with some glee that I discovered that her latest novel, Magpie, was to be released amid Sydney’s never-ending lockdown (84 days and counting as I type). And while I’m not usually one to hanker after torrential rain and looming skies, the bleak and blustery weather earlier in the week offered the perfect excuse to hunker down with a book, and so I spent a day curled up and cosy on the sofa, armed with a blanket, hot water bottle and copious cups of tea, as I lost myself in Day’s brilliant new novel.

Magpie Book Review

A book that I knew I would love as soon as I started it, Magpie has all the ingredients for an unputdownable and pacy read. Set against a London backdrop that I know, miss, and love, Magpie is a stylish and smart domestic noir ripe with jealousy, infertility, motherhood, obsession, and power, that offers a unique take on how we as humans’ function, and how too we fall apart when things don’t go according to plan.

It tells the story of illustrator Marisa, who moves in with her boyfriend Jake after just a couple of months, soon after which they start trying for a baby. Having been abandoned by her mother as a young girl, Jake offers Marisa the stability and security she’s been craving for so long, but when they take in lodger Kate – who seems to take an uneasy interest in both Jake and Marisa’s new pregnancy – the life and future family that Marisa has worked so hard to create risks imploding.

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Utterly unputdownable, taught and tense, Magpie is rife with twists and turns and is a pacy and skilfully written novel about motherhood and dreams, desire and resentment, jealousy and possession and the dangers of getting everything you’ve ever wanted.


Deftly plotted and acutely perceptive throughout, this nuanced literary thriller from Day will give readers a new insight into the devastating impact of infertility and ruined life-long aspirations. 

Magpie Summary

Sometimes Marisa gets the fanciful notion that Kate has visited the house before. She makes herself at home without any self-consciousness. She puts her toothbrush right there in the master bathroom, on the shelf next to theirs.

In Jake, Marisa has found everything she’s ever wanted. Then their new lodger Kate arrives.

Something about Kate isn’t right. Is it the way she looks at Marisa’s boyfriend? Sits too close on the sofa? Constantly asks about the baby they are trying for? Or is it all just in Marisa’s head?

After all, that’s what her Jake keeps telling her. And she trusts him – doesn’t she?

But Marisa knows something is wrong. That the woman sleeping in their house will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Marisa just doesn’t know why.

How far will she go to find the answer – and how much is she willing to lose?

Buy Magpie from Book Depository or Waterstones.

Further reading

I loved this interview with Elizabeth Day on The Guardian: ‘A lot of people were yearning to talk about failure.’

Elizabeth Day author bio

Elizabeth Day is the author of three previous novels. Her acclaimed debut Scissors, Paper, Stone, won a Betty Trask Award and Home Fires was an Observer book of the year. She is also an award-winning journalist and has written extensively for the Telegraph, The Times, the Guardian, the Observer, the Mail on Sunday, Vogue, Elle and the Evening Standard.

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