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The Birthday Present
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£8.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 30 July 2009
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. MP Ivor Tesham has an affair with a married woman and let's say that they like to add some 'piquancy' to their lovemaking. When his mistress 's birthday comes round he has an idea. He will hire two men to mock abduct her, gag her and have them bring her to him. This will be her birthday present.But when the car those two men were driving causes a terrible crash, his mistress Hebe dies and so does one of the 'abductors'. The other one has suffered terrible injuries but he may recover and tell what he knows. There is also, plain Jane Atherton who used to be Hebe's friend and who provided alibis for her. She doesn't know it all but enough to make Ivor's life unpleasant and her own humdrum existence more exciting if she chose to blackmail him. A clever tale about deceit, power, loneliness, callousness and so much more, it is an exciting read that I can only highly recommend.
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on 24 June 2014
This is a real page turner. Unusual in that it has two narrators-confusing at first as the voices change without warning. The plot is complex and intricate and superbly teased out. Read faster and faster as it progressed. I felt the finale was predictable but not predicted within the text. However that does not detract from it in any way. A large number of characters not all of whom are drawn deeply - correct as in keeping with the double narrative voices.

This book made me want to devour more Barbara Vine work.

Next please.
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on 16 December 2017
Excellent item AAA+++!!!
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on 23 September 2016
another twisting and turning plot with plenty of diversions
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on 8 January 2014
Bought as a gift so no idea what it's like, my sister loves this author and asked me to buy it
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on 11 May 2013
I have never encountered a Barbara Vine book that was easy to put down, and this one is no exception. Although there is a murder, this book is not a thriller, and not as plot-driven as many Vine novels. But it does have many elements of suspense. The author creates two main characters, and we watch them slowly succumbing to wrong turnings and obsessions that eventually destroy their lives.

I like that the author did not use this book as a platform for her own political persuasions, but showed much sympathy and insight into the Tory MP she created, and made him a three-dimensional human being with dignity at his heart.

One scene did not ring true: The incident where Pandora wants to discuss the pearl necklace with Jane. I don't want to teach my grandmother to suck eggs, but why on earth would P not want to mention the pearls to hubby? I would have shown him the pearls and said 'wow, these are valuable, should we discuss what we are going to do with them?' Or 'Did you give Hebe these for a special occasion?'

Also where the narrating character changes I would have liked the chapter to be headed with the narrating character's name rather than leaving the reader floundering.
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on 16 March 2010
This was highly recommended for our church reading group, but as I haven't yet read it can't be more specific.
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on 4 June 2013
The one problem i had when i first started to read this book was, i found i got a bit lost with who was meant to be telling the story. Once you got to grips of who was who it became a lot easier to follow. All in all i quite enjoyed it.
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on 30 December 2012
not as good as her earlier psychological themes. Tand required an effort to keep readingakes a long tme to get going,it plodded on and took an effort to keep reading.
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on 31 December 2014
Up to Barbara Vine"s usual standard.(Ruth Rendell really)
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