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The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine
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The Birthday Present (2008)

by Barbara Vine

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Barbara Vine
  Marjoles | Sep 27, 2017 |
Ivor Graham, up and coming MP, is having g an affair with Hebe Furnal. As a birthday treat he arranged a role play abduction. Things go wrong leaving a tangle of people involved who may at any point let on that Ivor is involved. Just when Ivor thinks it's all blown over...

A fascinating and captivating series of twist and turns make this an interesting good read. ( )
  pamjw | Jun 30, 2017 |
The Birthday Present is by Barbara Vine which is a pseudonym for mystery writer Ruth Rendell. Vine seems to be her darker, more psychologically complex self. The Birthday Present tells of ambitious politician Ivor Tesham and his affair with married woman, Hebe. I found Ivor both unlikable and unsympathetic. He considered asking his lover to leave both her husband and her young child and allow herself to be set up in a flat. He had no intention of living with her or marrying her, this would all be for his convenience. When he was told she would most likely bring her child with her, he abandoned the idea.

Ivor arranges a birthday present for Hebe, an ‘adventure sex’ episode that goes horribly wrong. The story unfolds from two separate viewpoints, first Ivor’s friend and brother-in-law and then that of Jane, Hebe’s best friend and the person who provided her with alibis to cover her absences from her family. Jane’s version comes in the form of diary entries. I actually found Jane to be the most interesting person in the book, very much a Barbara Vine character, solitary, lonely, bitter and self-pitying.

Although not a bad book, I ended up being slightly disappointed with The Birthday Present, it didn’t seem to have any deep psychological statements to make and compared to other Barbara Vine books that I have read in the past, this one was lacking. I thought the author could have explored the theme of ‘adventure sex’ in a more exciting way, instead this book was rather dreary, sad and unsurprising. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 19, 2017 |
I've never read a Barbara Vine novel that didn't intrigue and satisfy me with insights into the darker twists and turns of the human psyche. The Birthday Present is no exception.

Although Barbara Vine's novels are quieter than those written under Ruth Rendell's name, they are equally filled with the quirky, disturbed, often amoral characters that I love. This one kept me turning pages even when I knew it was time to turn out the lights.

Compared to her other books, the end dragged on a little longer than usual and longer than necessary. ( )
  CathrynGrant | Nov 20, 2014 |
As one would expect from Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, this novel is well written and at times quite absorbing. It tells the story of a rising Tory MP whose lover dies in a car crash that was organized as part of a mock abduction / sex game. Given the circumstances, including the fact that the woman is married, he doesn't report it to the authorities and it takes several years before all the different strands pointing to him come together -- largely the self-fulfilling result of his attempts to bury the truth (or, more to the point, his behavior which is explicable pretty much only as the actions of a person who wants to be caught).

The weakness of the novel is that after a promising start it never comes together in any sort of satisfying manner. The ending is essentially stated at the opening of the novel and the unfolding of the events leading to it contain little in the way of surprise or a satisfying conclusion. Still, it remains interesting to the very end -- although some of that comes from the expectation that Rendell/Vine is going to deliver something different than what she ultimately did deliver. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
A typically cruel and subtle piece of work by Ruth Rendell, writing under her Barbara Vine pseudonym, the novel charts the calamitous career trajectory of a Conservative member of Parliament when he tries to evade the consequences of a sexual misadventure that results in two deaths, including that of his married lover…Ivor can't avoid becoming ridiculous; but because Vine leaves out nothing in portraying him, he remains likable—never admirable, but likable.
added by daddyofattyo | editNew York times
 
Within the first five pages of The Birthday Present, you know you're in the hands of a mystery/thriller writer who's in perfect control of her material. In addition to that fabulous control, Rendell/Vine maintains a matronly, almost magisterial tone that lends unexpected dignity to the goriest, creepiest material. It is her trademark.
added by daddyofattyo | editThe Washington Post, Carolyn See
 
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To Simon and Donna, Phillip and Graham
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Thirty-three is the age we shall all be when we meet in heaven becuase Christ was thirty-three when he died.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Ivor Tesham is a handsome, single, young member of Parliament whose political star is on the rise. When he meets a woman in a chance encountera beautiful, leggy, married woman named Hebethe two become lovers obsessed with their trysts, spiced up by what the newspapers like to call "adventure sex." It's the dress-up and role-play that inspire Ivor to create a surprise birthday present for his beloved that involves a curbside kidnapping. It's all intended as mock-dangerous foreplay, but then things take a dark turn. After things go horribly wrong, Ivor begins to receive anonymous letters that reveal astonishingly speciFic details about the affair and its aftermath. Somehow he must keep his role from being uncoveredand his political future from being destroyed by scandal. Like a heretic on the inquisitor's rack, Ivor is not to be spared the exquisitely slow and tortuous unfolding of events, as hints, nuances, and small revelations lay his darkest secrets hideously bare for all the world to see. The Birthday Present is a deft, insightful, and compulsively readable exploration of obsessive desireand the dark twists of fate that can shake the lives of even those most insulated by privilege, sophistication, and power.
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Writing under the pen name Barbara Vine, the international bestselling author Ruth Rendell--the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world ("Time")--has created an unrelentingly riveting novel of mystery and suspense.

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