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Molly Fox's Birthday [Paperback]

Deirdre Madden
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 April 2009
Dublin. Midsummer. While absent in New York, the celebrated actor Molly Fox has loaned her house to a playwright friend, who is struggling to write a new work. Over the course of this, the longest day of the year, the playwright reflects upon her own life, Molly's, and that of their mutual friend Andrew, whom she has known since university. Why does Molly never celebrate her own birthday, which falls upon this day? What does it mean to be a playwright or an actor? How have their relationships evolved over the course of many years? Molly Fox's Birthday calls into question the ideas that we hold about who we are; and shows how the past informs the present in ways we might never have imagined.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (23 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571239668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571239665
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 362,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A beautiful novel.' -- Frank McGuinness

'A novel of great subtlety, beauty and strength. She is one of our finest writers.' -- Anne Enright

'A thoughtful, beautifully poised novel.' -- Financial Times

'Equipped with an almost celestial compassion, Madden is the constant genius of Irish letters.' -- Sebastian Barry

`It is almost impossible not to be moved.' -- Scotsman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Equipped with an almost celestial compassion, Madden is the constant genius of Irish letters.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feeds the brain, and the heart too 19 Jun 2009
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Molly Fox is an actress, who has lent her Dublin home to her best friend, the playwright who narrates this story. The book tells the story of one midsummer day (which also happens to be Molly's birthday) with the playwright in Molly's spare room trying to write a new play, her twentieth. She discusses her relationship with Molly; her relationship with her family, including her brother Tom who is a priest; her highs and lows; her attitude toward love; and most of all, she discusses playwriting, acting and how people go about doing these as jobs.

It's this bit of the book that I wasn't expecting, and found really stimulating. If you've never thought much before about the process of acting, this is the most superb exploration of the weirdness of standing on a stage, 'being' somebody else, and why someone might end up wanting to do that for a job.

However, the book is also a great read in terms of the characters and the vividness with which it is all portrayed. It's a testament to the writing that you never have any trouble keeping track of the large cast of characters, who are all vividly conjured up. And as one other reviewer said, the house itself is a beautifully portrayed part of the novel, almost a character in itself. Madden's descriptions of Dublin on a hot summer's day are lovely too. A really wonderful summery read, with all the underlying strength and interest you could want from the most serious of books.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Molly doesn't do intimacy' 3 Aug 2009
By purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
'In the dream I was walking through the streets of a strange city in a foreign country I did not recognise'.

The novel opens with the narrator's dream as she awakens in the house of her dear friend Molly Fox. My heart sank a little - I thought starting with a dream didn't augur well for the novel. I was wrong. It's the best novel I've read in a while.

Molly Fox's Birthday examines the friendship between the playwright narrator, Molly Fox, an actor, and Andrew, an old university friend of the nameless narrator. Each of the three have siblings that have great importance in their lives; for the narrator it's Catholic priest Father Tom, for Molly it's Fergus, who has a voice as magical as hers but is psychologically fragile. For Andrew, his brother Tony continues to have importance, even though they were not close and had nothing in common.
Through the course of one day, midsummer's day and Molly Fox's birthday, the narrator thinks about all of these players and has visits with two of them and a phone call with another. The narrator mentions how as playwright and actor both she and Molly have an interest in the transformation of the self. And that is why I liked this novel so much - it's about self transformation, identity, the bits of ourselves that our friends see and the bits our family sees.

Molly has becomes great friends with the narrator's brother Tom and her dear friend Andrew - the narrator know that she isn't allowed similar privileges with Fergus Fox. After he visits the house, delivering a birthday present, she thinks about their conversation as she gets her supper `How completely I had bought Molly's version of him! And even more to the point , how completely I had bought Molly's version of herself'.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully tidy tale 19 July 2009
By Mrs. Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The `action' all takes place on one special day and the narration by the unamed playwright who is her adoring friend. This is a gentle hymn to the art of the actor and the experience of being involved with the theatre in general. A quick read which leaves you wondering what may happen next...

The tantalising character of Molly Fox is the hook on which the book is set and the reader may come come to differing conclusions about her life from the writer.

All is carefully paced with helpful visits from important people in both her life and that of the writer, rather like a chorus, with their history attached. The penultimate guest is rather more problematic but again only in a gentle way. This book reminds me of Anita Brookner's writing and will definitely hit the spot with readers who enjoy a superbly written jewel of a book where much is hinted at but not a lot actually happens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE ELUSIVE MOLLY 22 July 2012
By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWER
We join the novels' nameless narrator, a playwright and friend of "actor" Molly Fox on a hot June day while she house-sits for the absent Molly. Here in the home Molly has created the reader is introduced to the absent birthday girl by way of her wonderful garden, the cherished mementos with which she had filled her Victorian abode, and the feelings and memories that these items evoke within the narrator as she retraces certain aspects of her long association with Molly. Various people come in and out of the house on this day and each person conjures a different Molly memory that ultimately leaves the reader asking "Who is this elusive and chameleon like Molly Fox?"

Perhaps Molly is truly a song with mixed melodies. She is Carly Simons "Your So Vain" - when she insists that the newspaper notice announcing her birthday is incorrect "I'm 38 - not 40". She is definitely Eric Claptons "Behind the Mask" whose lyrics state "Sit behind the mask where you control your world, Camouflage the truth, indulge your fantasy" - Molly may insist that she is "becoming", but the truth of the matter is that she "becomes" whoever or whatever the situation requires her to be. Molly doesn't connect with people, she merely observes and reacts and ladies and gentlemen that is what is called a talent for "ACTING".

I enjoyed this novel on several levels. First, because it requires that we scrutinize and reflect on certain "truths" regarding love, family, friends, and identity. Through her characters, author Deirdre Madden provides us with an accumulation of quotable insights and ideas such as "even more than our parents, our siblings are the determining factor in our individual fate"; and "we all do get what we really want in life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Written and Involving Story
Molly Fox, a well-known and well-regarded actor, has left her colourful and characterful Dublin home in the care of her playwright friend whilst she is in New York. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Susie B
5.0 out of 5 stars layers and layers but even the surface is good
This is a story about friendship and betrayal and contrary to what some reviewers claimed, there is a twist in the end, which I'm not going to reveal, but which I missed the first... Read more
Published 9 months ago by CC
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting novel
I came across this book rather by chance whilst browsing the shelves of a bookshop; what a brilliant find it was. Read more
Published on 1 April 2012 by Ute
5.0 out of 5 stars Take time to ponder on a single day
In Deidre Madden's Orange Prize shortlisted novel, the events cover just one day, in which the narrator wakes up in her friend's house, shops for food and gifts, and struggles to... Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2012 by annie hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant
An elegant and insightful novel which principally deals with identity and how peoples' actions have impact on others' lives. Read more
Published on 29 Jun 2011 by Freckles
4.0 out of 5 stars Varying shades of brilliance
Molly Fox is a well known and highly respected actor. While staying in New York, her friend, a well-known playwright, preparing for her next "project", is staying in her house in... Read more
Published on 27 April 2010 by Friederike Knabe
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull
Although this book wasn't awful it was really dull.
I don't have a problem with books where 'not much actually happens' but I thought the narrators thoughts just didn't... Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2009 by perpetual browser
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy contender for the 2009 Orange Prize....
I've taken it upon myself to read the 2009 shortlist for the Orange Prize to see how they measured up to the worthy winner 'Home' by Marilynne Robinson. Read more
Published on 19 Aug 2009 by BlestMiss T
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointed
The story is narrated by Molly's friend who is staying in her home for a short period.It explores life long friendships and our ability to love our friends 'warts and all'. Read more
Published on 17 July 2009 by Ecosse Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for 2009 books
The story is written concisely and beautifully about our interior lives and what friendships bring to it. Read more
Published on 13 July 2009 by P. L. Lim
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