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Birthday Boys Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Abacus
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349121567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349121567
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,500,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

When the story is placed in its Historical context the work is very well done.
taking a rest
I very much enjoyed the first chapter, narrated by Taff Evans, finding it very well writen and in character.
Dani
I loved the way this writer took me into the mind and live of each of the five Scott explorers in turn.
Sandra Winton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ned K. Wynn on February 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
This woman is one of my favorite writers. I have just finished her "Watson's Apology" and found it wonderful as well. But I always use a caveat with Ms. Bainbridge, as I do with Ian McEwan: she is an acquired taste. "The Birthday Boys" is no exception to the rule.

To begin with, as with many of Ms. Bainbridge's novels, this is based on true events. In this case the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1912. Scott and four of his crew died on their way back from the Pole itself which had already been reached by the intrepid Roald Amundsen two weeks prior. What Bainbriddge does is invite herself and us into the minds of the five men who died, and each of the interior glimpses and monologues takes place on the event of each one's own birthday, and reviews various aspects of his life including how he is feeling that day. Scott, who died last we must suppose, is saved for last.

It is a bold and marvelous literary concoction of fact, fantasy, and intellectual probing coupled with an almost uncanny peek into the hearts and minds of the men who cannot, of course, be interviewed and what they truly thought can never be truly known. Yet I have accepted these portraits as actual "interviews." Each of the men is given a full literary treatment, a complete characterization. It takes a lot of courage to do what Bainbridge does (she does it in "Watson's Apology" as well): she tells us things she cannot possibly know for sure and leaves it at that. Many people try to do that today, they pretend they are writing history when in fact, they are writing fantasy. Bainbridge doesn't pretend to be doing anything but writing about people and what she thinks or imagines they might have been thinking at any one time. She is the best at this conceit that I have ever read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Her prose is economical and expressive to the point that other talented writers now strike me as using too many words. What's more, Bainbridge's imagination is stunning. Although I understood that I was reading a 'fictional' account of the failed Scott expedition, I kept finding myself thinking that I was there, witnessing what happened, peering over a shoulder as someone wrote in his journal...(!) She's that good. I'm a historian, and I find B's imagined re-creation of what happened on the Scott expedition (which is based on her expert command of the historical sources) completely convincing, and powerfully moving. What a genius!
Bravo, Bainbridge.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on September 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Bainbridge's hair-raising fictionalized account of Captain Robert Scott's doomed1912 venture to the South Pole begins with the glory and giddiness of their send off and ends with disappointment and slow death. Five men reached the pole and Bainbridge chooses these five to narrate, in turn, a section of their journey - during which each has a birthday, his last.

Taff Evans, the only non-officer, opens the book with his account of drunken parties and celebrity treatment. His hero-worship of Scott and glory tales of previous adventures contrasts with the bitter fears of a wife chary of being left destitute with children in a grimy slum. Taff is gritty and honest, roaring with life and humor.

Too bad Bainbridge's officers didn't have a little more of that rough and ready ebullience. Subsequent narratives - of the ocean crossing, setting up advance camps, scientific side trips, the numerous setbacks, disasters, equipment failures and human endurance - are all told by men with stiff upper lips.

Their idea of rousing good fun is a drunken scrimmage which ends with them all half naked. They avoid coming to terms with poor preparation and the disastrous equipment choices by blaming bad luck and admiring each other's bravery and fortitude in the face of each new disaster.

Bainbridge is a marvelous writer who brings the horrifics of cold and inadequate preparation vividly to life. Her point is to show the human waste engendered by the British code of honor and this she does. Yet, because of Capt. Scott's voluminous notes, recovered after his death, this is a story that's been often told. Nothing beats the nonfiction version for sheer excitement and heart break.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on May 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Scott Expedition of 1912 is documented by dozens if not hundreds of books. So why would a writer bother to take on the topic as Historical Fiction? In this case she had much more in mind that merely sharing the hypothetical viewpoints of Scott and 4 others who narrate their experiences. She uses the narrators sequentially as opposed to having them recount their opinions of the same event. There is some redundancy in opinions, but I really liked the way the narrative was a continual thread, and not a series of viewpoints on a redundant topic.
Ms. Bainbridge uses this tragedy of Scott to illustrate a turning point in History, a change in the fundamental beliefs and manner of approaching problems. The Scott Expedition serves as an example of the great changes during the very early 20th Century. The fact that Scott and his men failed to be the first, and that they all died, is either tragic or negligent when the fact that this was his second time out to plant the flag at the pole is considered. Not only is he beaten to his goal, his philosophies are proved to be the reason for his failure.
As with mountaineering these other attempts at, "firsts" were the domain of, "Class", and not necessarily ability. Those who lead, like Officers who had bought their Commissions were not necessarily qualified, and were often inept at that which they attempted foolishly and were risking their death and that of their men.
"Courage", was what would see a task through. A leaking ship before even leaving its berth was just a preview to the lack of planning and leadership that killed them all. Scott would not use dogs it must be a march. In this he was almost Victorian in his thinking.
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