- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 10, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307451984
- ISBN-13: 978-0307451989
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,861,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Birthday Present: A Novel Hardcover – March 10, 2009
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From Bookmarks Magazine
In her newest Barbara Vine novel, Rendell has crafted a subtly sordid tale studded with imaginative plot twists and black humor. Though she reveals Tesham’s eventual downfall within the first few pages, Rendell builds a great deal of tension into her complex, tightly constructed plot, and her descriptions of Tesham’s sexual adventures, though accurate, are never lurid. Interestingly, most British critics panned the novel—a possible reaction to the liberal Rendell’s political leanings or a jaded familiarity with the national events framing the plot. However, American critics praised The Birthday Present, calling it “one of [Rendell’s] best literary excursions” to date (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Readers in search of a smart, fast-paced thriller by an expert storyteller will appreciate Vine’s latest.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Vine, the pen name of Ruth Rendell (whose Reginald Wexford mysteries are among the best of contemporary British procedurals), turns in another involving stand-alone that explores the twists and turns of human behavior. Flipping between the perspectives of two unacquainted narrators, she chronicles the rise and fall of a self-indulgent British politician, whose career collapses, in part, because of a tragic stroke of bad luck. Ivor Tesham, a rising star in John Major’s liberal party, is shocked when he learns about the death of his mistress, killed in a car accident while on her way to him, bound and blindfolded, as the willing victim of a faux kidnapping meant to set the stage for a birthday gift of adventurous sex. Fearing public censure, Tesham stays quiet, despite the advice from his sister and brother-in-law. As might be expected, his selfish decision gradually ripples outward, leading to unexpected consequences not only for himself but also for the other vicitims of the accident—especially the woman’s troubled friend. As with her other psychological thrillers, Vine writes with calm elegance, slowly unravelling the story while constructing a strong sense of place, politics, and social class to support her players. It’s the very ordinariness of her characters and the randomness of their lives that create the drama here. --Stephanie Zvirin
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Top customer reviews
Have already recommended it and loaned it out.
The Birthday Present is one of Vine's best. Ivor Tesham is an up and coming Member of Parliament in the early 1990s, on the fast track to high office in Margaret Thatcher and John Major's Tory Party. He's rich, urbane, and sophisticated, with a taste for sexual adventure that embroils him with some embarrassing hangers on. His story is told by two separate characters, his brother in law and a sad, delusional woman who was a friend of one of Tesham's lovers. The two points of view interweave his story and those of his family and associates over a period of about five years.
This is an exciting story with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. In addition to the main plot line, Vine provides a lot of interesting material on British political affairs in the early 1990s. I was somewhat apprehensive about The Birthday Present because I felt the previous Vine book, The Minotaur, was not up to her usual standard, but The Birthday Present was highly satisfactory.
I don't want to give anymore of the game away,suffice to say it has the quality typical of Ruth Rendell,writing as Barbara Vine.