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The Birthday Present Paperback – 2 Apr 2009

31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; paperback / softback edition (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141036214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141036212
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 259,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

The Rendell/Vine partnership has for years been producing consistently better work than most Booker winners put together (Ian Rankin)

Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell letting rip (Daily Telegraph)

A superb and original writer (Amanda Craig, Express)

About the Author

Barbara Vine is the pen-name of Ruth Rendell. Viking have published her twelve previous novels, including A Dark Adapted Eye, which won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award, and more recently Grasshopper, The Blood Doctor and The Minotaur. Barbara Vine is widely regarded as the pre-eminent crime novelist of her generation. Ruth Rendell sits in the House of Lords as a Labour peer. She lives in Maida Vale, London.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hel S on 18 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is the first time I've encountered Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine And I'm not sure I'm that impressed. The narrator of the book is incredibly boring, which I can see the point of because he may otherwise detract from the intensity and interest of the other characters. Unfortunately, I didn't consider them to be particularly interesting either.

Perhaps it was the political theme to the book. I don't general find that kind of thing very gripping, but it was offset by the story of Jane, which I thought would be more my cup of tea. Unfortunately, there again, I was disappointed. Perhaps I've just read too many Rendell's to come to anything other than what I thought was the obvious outcome for Jane (and her 'boyfriend' Calum).

Telling the story backwards may have been more successful for me if the characters held more interest, but they didn't and I felt bored and frustrated the more I read, and I just wanted the book to end.

The writing was good, there's no doubt about that. But the style and construction of the narrative, combined with the dull characters, served to put me off the book. I will give her another go, though, as I see a few comments about the difference between this book and her others.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 April 2009
Format: Paperback
I haven't read a Ruth Rendell or Barbara Vine for years, but my grandma gave me this this morning and I've just finished reading it. Really thoroughly enjoyable, with all those black twists I used to relish, and I can't think now why I stopped religiously reading her books. It's made me rediscover how much I like Rendell as a writer - none of the over-political stuff you get in PD James, just cool plotting, tightly-cranked tension and people and their weirdness. Read the back and you'll expect 1990s Westminster and S&M sex; but whatever the setting, Rendell is always all about coincidence, timing and people's fatal flaws. I loved the main character, Ivor, who is a slightly creepy Tory MP, and the two narrators, Ivor's brother-in-law Robin, who is a really mysterious being, and Jane, a lonely spinster librarian. Good fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Lacroix on 30 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having just read before Taylor's ' A stain on the silence', I couldn't help but see how vastly superior 'the Birthday Present 'is and that's why I have no hesitation in giving it five stars. Had I read it after another very good book, who knows, maybe I would have given it four? But the minute I started on it I was hooked, the elegant writing , the clever characterisation, the hints that titillated but didn't reveal all, those that would eventually not lead anywhere much but allowed us to wonder in what direction the story would be going, all this reminded me of all the reasons I have always had for liking and admiring Rendell's style. I think the way she portrays her characters is what I like best. Rendell is never PC. What the protagonists feel, think and say is entirely in keeping with who they are and however distateful some of those thoughts and actions may be it is refreshing to read about callousness and selfishness and self pity. Not because they are admirable traits in themselves of course but because every single one of us feels them at one time or another and can therefore empathise and feel a connection that is impossible when characters, as is increasingly the way with some authors nowadays, are made to utter banalities that aim at offending no one and only manage to irritate. Another of her talent is the way (and I don't know how she does it) I always feel for those people in her books who are severely flawed. Instead of judging and being repelled the reader is drawn to feel compassion and to understand, in some respects, how it all came to be.
The book deals with the repercussions of an act(immoral but not criminal and that should have remained private) when it all goes wrong.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. Gardner on 2 July 2010
Format: Paperback
I love Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. Usually. But this book I'm afraid I just found irritating, desperately stretched over too many pages and repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. The device she uses to tell the story - from two separate voices - both of whom are detatched from the main character, Tory MP Ivor Tesham, just does not work on any level. Conversations reported, feelings surmised, atmospheres guessed at from someone who wasn't even there at the time from the voice of Robin, the brother-in-law (who, I believe was written to be a bit of a bore - and oh boy, did she ever get that right!) and/or from a bitter and twisted female character who is hugely unlikeable. Also, judging by the back cover, you would have thought that at least it was a bit on the spicy side (not the reason I bought the book in the first place! of course not!) but no, not even that. I persevered to the end just because I always do if I have started a book but really, it was a struggle.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Simon Clarke on 9 April 2009
Format: Paperback
The Birthday Present is Ruth Rendell's 13th novel writing as
Barbara Vine,and is set during the tail-end of Thatcher's
government.It concerns an ambitious rising star in her government,
who is also something of a philanderer with 'lively' sexual
preferences.He arranges a birthday present for his lover,an
attractive young married woman,which consists in arranging for
her to be kidnapped,gagged and bound,and delivered to his sister's
residence.Things do not go to plan,and the tense plot involves
cover-ups and subterfuge until a few years later much of the truth
is revealed with dire consequences.
Whilst this is a gripping tale,full of suspense,superbly written
and constucted,and well worth reading ,for me it lacked the
consummate psychological acuity of the very best of Barbara Vine.
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