- Hardcover: 323 pages
- Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (10 Mar. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307451984
- ISBN-13: 978-0307451989
- Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.4 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,633,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Birthday Present Hardcover – 10 Mar 2009
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Those who feel that Ruth Rendell's best writing is done under her Barbara Vine nom-de-plume (and there are many who do) will need little persuasion to pick up The Birthday Present. But the fact that this is something of a departure for the author -- under either of her names -- may give them pause.
Margaret Thatcher's days as prime minister are over, and the John Major era of the Conservative party is about to begin. The media is full of tales of sleaze and corruption, and it is not a good time to be a Tory Member of Parliament. However, Ivor Tesham is sanguine: money is no object to him; he is charismatic and attractive, and he is in the middle of a passionate affair. The fly in the ointment is the fact that this is an adulterous relationship: not a happy state of affairs when PM John Major has made 'Back to Basics' morality and 'Victorian Values' the new yardsticks for his variously philandering and kickback-taking MPs. Ivor and his lover -- the beautiful Hebe Furnal -- share a particular erotic predilection; a taste for bondage and the more risky extremes of sexuality. Ivor arranges for a mock kidnapping in line with the couple's games, but, needless to say (this is a Barbara Vine novel, after all), things quickly go pear-shaped, and Igor find that everything he holds dear is about to be stripped away from him.
As this synopsis suggests, Rendell is moving into even more incendiary territory than she has traversed before, and the political element makes the experiment even more piquant. Those who know Rendell's association with the Labour Party (she is a working peer) might assume that a novel which rekindles all the sleaze of the last Tory government (particularly when the latest incarnation of the party is riding high in the polls) is a political act, but Rendell/Vine is far too sophisticated a writer to fall into that trap. In fact, this is one of the most ingenious and disturbing books. As often before with her, the stake for the central character could not be higher and it is impossible not to be drawn into the plight of the beleaguered Ivor (not for the first time, we are reminded of the authors distinguished American predecessor Patricia Highsmith). The Birthday Present,disturbing as it is, will sit happily on your shelves alongside all the other Barbara Vine titles -- and if you don't possess them, why not? --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 constructed,and well worth reading, for me it lacked the consummate psychological acuity of the very best of Barbara Vine.
This new novel is essentially a character study of two people --- a rising star in the Conservative Party heirarchy, and a lonely young woman whose life and sanity are rapidly crumbling; but these two central threads fit into a more complex mosaic that includes Vine's typically keen characterizations as well as some biting political commentary.
This is not to say that there's an endorsement of a political viewpoint or issue. The book is more a look at how appearances trump substance in politics. It doesn't matter so much what you've done; it's how that is perceived, how it's spun in the media. It's all about perception.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I do almost everything Vine has written, and highly recommend it for her fans.
The plot here, revolves around the horrific and multiple consequences of The Birthday Present of the title. For spoiler reasons the nature of the present cannot be told, but it is unusual, imaginative and inventive....surely what any girl wants, as a change from the usual perfume or chocs!!
It is different alright and had it gone as the giver, a well known MP, had planned, well then, the recipient his married girlfriend might have gone orgasmic with joy!! Literally.
It goes wrong. Somebody or bodies die. Enter a bunny boiler type anxious to suck up to the troubled MP, she really is a nut case, but I don't find her over the top ridiculous I found her and her controlling Mum believable.
As we expect from this author the London settings are very well described and the insider knowledge of the House of Commons is interesting.
There are a lot of believable characters drawn in depth, unlike some other of Vine/RR's latter work, there is plot there is suspense and there is a good ending.
I recommend this one, especially if you can borrow it or get it cheap. No way is it another Dark Adapted Eye but its a satisfying yarn nevertheless. There is also a very good audio book about, but I cannot find it on Amazon, it is narrated by Paul Blake and Ruth Silley and done very well
I'm a huge fan of all the Barbara Vine novels and I absolutely loved this book and found myself looking forward to bedtime, so that I could curl up with this delicious novel. It's a book that stays with you for ages after it ends and this in my opinion, is the hallmark of a brilliant writer - long may the Vine novels continue!
The Birthday Present has probably been the book I was most looking forward to in 2008, especially considering how good Rendell's last effort under the Vine name - The Minotaur - was. Sadly, this doesn't get within a long creeping tendril's distance of the quality.
It's early 1990. The Thatcher government it's nearing it's last days, and there's a love affair going on. Ivor Tesham, a thirty-year-old political rising star is secretly bedding beautiful London housewife Hebe Furnal. For her birthday Ivor decides to give her a special present that certain more open couples have begun to engage in: a practice known as `adventure sex'. Hebe is to be abducted, consenting but unknowing of when, at an unknown venue and time, bound and gagged, then delivered to her lover at a specified location... The decision to "treat" Hebe to this fashionable new thrill is one that will lead to tragedy touching the lives of several people, least of all Tesham's.
The Birthday Present is an odd beast among the Vine canon, almost entirely unlike any of her other, which normally feature hidden, secret crimes of the past, dark, cloudy tragedies recollected in the present or some further point, that gradually become unfolded to reveal something horrific. This, however, is more a political satire-cum-thriller. It is, admittedly, absolutely full of many of the things one would expect of a Vine novel: a brilliant conveyance of the psychology of its many characters, and a demonstration of a remarkable insight into the time-period in which it is set. The characters, with their weaknesses and leavening normalities, are of course brilliantly written. As is the portrait of a primarily self-obsessed early-nineties era.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Don't expect a conventional whodunit. It is not giving away anything to say that this is a tale of the fall from grace of an ambitious government minister in the Thatcher era. Read morePublished on 4 Oct. 2012 by Michael Farman
A very different Barbara Vine novel but nonetheless compelling and engrossing, thought provoking too and full of almost forgotten recent history. Read morePublished on 13 Mar. 2009 by Jane Baker
A dark and subversive mix of political and social issues Barbara Vine's latest novel skirts around the ramifications of a Tory politician's sexual peccadilloes and the accompanying... Read morePublished on 13 Mar. 2009 by Walter Hypes
Disappointed with this. I have read almost everything she has written as Rendell/Vine and loved about 95% of them. Read morePublished on 24 Nov. 2008 by M. Rose