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Molly Fox's Birthday Paperback – April 27, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This ruminative novel takes place over the course of a day, one of many a playwright spends in her actress friend's Dublin home over the course of a summer. The nameless narrator, an accomplished playwright to whom Irish actress Molly Fox has loaned her Dublin home, reflects on her 20-year-long friendship with Molly and the rise of both of their careers as she avoids the work of writing her next play. As she wanders through the house peeking at Molly's personal belongings, awards, and theater memorabilia, the narrator realizes that, in some ways, Molly is as much of an enigma to her now as when they first met. She also explores her relationships with a college friend, Andrew, and her older brother, Tom, a priest. There isn't much in the way of plot—it mostly consists of a series of flashbacks—but readers who enjoy this cerebral and meandering variety of first-person Euro-fiction will be enthralled at Madden's unassuming yet moving story. (May)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* A finalist for England’s prestigious Orange Prize, Madden’s novel is a meditative exploration of the nature of self in relation to others. The unnamed narrator is an Irish playwright of some renown who has returned to Dublin to house-sit for her friend Molly Fox, an acclaimed theater actress who is taking a trip to New York before starting a run on stage in London. The narrator is hoping to make some headway on her new play, but Molly’s home calls up memories of their friendship, as well as of their mutual friend Andrew, an art historian who first caught the playwright’s eye when they were both in college logging long hours at the library. That there are unresolved feelings among the three won’t come as a surprise, but the revelations are handled with such a deft, subtle hand that they pass across the page like ripples in a pond. The joy of this elegant novel is in peeling back the layers to try to understand a person who is “the product of a stable background but simply couldn’t fit into it, whose whole life and work was an effort to understand this failure to connect.” --Kristine Huntley

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 221 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1St Edition edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312429541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312429546
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gary P. Kelly on November 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This story explores the lives and personalities of a small circle of highly talented, intelligent and very likeable friends. While friend Molly Fox, an unusually accomplished actress, is visiting New York, the narrator, an Irish playwright who lives in London, is borrowing Molly's house in Dublin while she tries to regenerate her creative juices. During the course of one day, which happens to be Molly's birthday, the narrator reflects upon their lives as well as those of other closely connected friends and relatives. From time to time, throughout the day, various people from the past and present are encountered, much like the visitations from Ebenezer Scrooge's ghosts. Described in highly accessible and very literate prose, each of these reminiscences and encounters add new revelations to the narrative. Eventually, the lives of these intelligent and appealing people are fleshed out, ultimately coming to a very satisfying conclusion as the day ends. I strongly recommend this novel to those who enjoy fine literature and well constructed prose.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Holly TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 31, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I find myself drawn to Irish writers lately and when I had the opportunity to read an author I was unfamiliar with, I jumped at the chance.

"Molly Fox's Birthday" is a first person narrative which takes place over the course of a single day. The narrator is a close friend of Molly's who is using her house in Dublin for a couple of weeks while Molly is in New York and London. The story opens in the morning, closes with the evening, and the 220 pages in between interweave the narrator's story with that of Molly (a very famous stage actress who possesses an incredible voice) and Andrew who is another friend of theirs. The stories are told via reminisces and conversations with three different people who stop by during the day, not realizing that Molly is away. All kinds of relationship complications, career progressions and even the political hostilities taking place in Northern Ireland are addressed.

The book is well-written and incredibly insightful regarding family/personal relationships. There were several times when I dog-eared a page since there was that beautiful moment of truth that leapt off the page. While not overly heavy, by any means, it does take patience to read since the narrative slips back and forth between past and present without warning so the reader needs to pay attention or risk getting lost. The fact that there are such beautiful, insightful passages also means it will be most appreciated by a reader who is not in a rush to get through it but willing to take the time to savor it.

I enjoyed the novel immensely and would recommend it to people who like a more meandering read - not terribly linear or fast-paced, but very, very good. If you are fan of Irish writers, this would be one to try.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tanstaafl VINE VOICE on May 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Isn't it amazing how we can have life-long close friendships with people we don't know at all. Not our closest 500 internet friends. Rather, think of the friend who has a lake house that you not only have never been invited to, but that you aren't even aware of.

How many of us think that friendships have rules? How many friendships develop, though, based on the rules unilaterally determined by only one of the two? And, once realized, does that thought, and hurt, occur only to the one who didn't set the rules?

And, how many friends do we introduce, only for them to be closer friends to one another than either is to us? And which of our three main characters; Molly, Andrew, and our nameless narrator, fills which types of friends' role?

I don't know if this is best described as a-day-in-the-life-of or a-life-in-the-day-of story. Either way we get to spend three lifetimes in less than three hundred pages.

Madden's writing is so good that it doesn't get in the way of the story. If you like character studies, grab this and read it slowly. This goes well with chocolates and a cuppa.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In this contemporary but timeless novel about relationships, identity, and home, Madden embraces the acting and playwright professions as central to the exploration of the human condition. The unnamed narrator, a successful playwright originally from Northern Ireland, is staying in Dublin at Molly Fox's house while Molly is in New York. Molly is a celebrated stage actress, a woman who seems mousy and nondescript in person but is charged with charisma on-stage. Moreover, she has a bewitching voice. "At times it is infused with a slight ache, a breaking quality.... " and ..."both a visual and sensuous quality, an ability to summon up the image of the thing that the word stands for."

Molly and said narrator have been best friends for twenty years. As the narrator struggles with writer's block during her visit, she traces Molly's steps through the house, fingers her treasures, sits in her garden, and recounts their friendship. Her memories includes their mutual friend Andrew, a successful TV art historian, specializing in memorials; Fergus, Molly's troubled brother; and Tom, the narrator's devoted brother--a Catholic priest who is also a dear friend to Molly. The day in question is June 21st, Molly's birthday, a date of penetrating significance that unfolds gradually through the narrative.

Molly, Andrew, and the narrator have built firm and lucrative careers. Each has shed their native skin and taken on new identities that, paradoxically, manifest a more palpable singularity and congruity of self. Whether it is escaping traditional familial bonds or facilitating a triumph in artistic pursuits, the three friends have remained a touchstone for each other.
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