Friday, February 3, 2012

Molly Fox's Birthday by Deidre Madden

Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deidre Madden
Date Published: April 27, 2010
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 221
ISBN: 978- 0312429546
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009

Book Summary: It is the height of summer, and celebrated actor Molly Fox has loaned her house in Dublin to a friend while she is away performing in New York. Alone among all of Molly's possessions, struggling to finish her latest play, she looks back on the many years and many phases of her friendship with Molly and their college friend Andrew, and comes to wonder whether they really knew each other at all. She revisits the intense closeness of their early days, the transformations they each made in the name of success and security, the lies they told each other, and betrayals they never acknowledged.

Set over a single midsummer's day, Molly Fox's Birthday is a mischievous, insightful novel about a turning point--a moment when past and future suddenly appear in a new light.

My Thoughts: This book was very different than I expected and quite good. It’s a quiet and cerebral story with very little dialogue. I enjoyed reading it slowly, taking frequent breaks to think about I‘d read. There’s no traditional plot here but the main character, the narrator, whose name is never revealed, is experiencing a crisis: she’s a playwright and struggling with writer’s block while trying to write the first draft of her 19th play.

The narrator is spending a few days at the Dublin home of her actor friend Molly Fox while Molly‘s in New York. The particular day in which the story takes place is Molly’s birthday. As the narrator looks around Molly’s home at her things, she begins ruminating over the past 20 years of their friendship, wondering how well she really knows Molly. Much of the narrative regards Molly’s personality and behavior as well as the narrators. She thinks about how they complement each other as well as irritate each other. The narrator thinks similarly, but to a lesser degree, about her friend, Andrew, a successful art historian. She recalls years ago when she introduced Molly to Andrew and suffered pangs of jealousy when they became close friends. It seems the narrator sometimes lacks self-confidence. The narrator thinks about the people she and her friends have become all these years later. She wonders how well she really knows them, thinking the demands of their careers may prevent real intimacy between them, particularly with Molly. She worries they may not be much more than acquaintances.

The narrator is candid about her thoughts and concerns creating a feeling of close intimacy with the reader. I imagines myself in front of a warm fire with a hot cup of tea - or a good glass of wine - listening as the narrator shared what was on her mind. Many different topics are covered throughout the book including religion, playwrights, actors, the different methods of acting, relationships, love, marriage, family and friendship as the narrator tries to quell her anxieties and break down what’s preventing her from writing. It’s not until some unexpected visitors, who come calling towards the end of the day, help her experience an epiphany that things begin to fall into place for the narrator.

I thought this was a fascinating book. I didn’t realize the hold it had on me until I took a break from reading it after picking it up the first time. I thought about what I’d read while going about the rest of my day and suddenly realized, I couldn’t wait to get back to Molly Fox’s Birthday to read what the narrator had to tell me next! I discovered that I liked reading 10 or 15 pages at a time and then taking a break to think about what I’d read. I highly recommend this thought-provoking and captivating book to readers who enjoy beautifully written, moving and insightful narratives with intriguing, thoughtful characters.

I read Molly Fox's Birthday for Orange January hosted by Jill at The Magic Lasso.  and The Orange Prize Project

Deirdre Madden (born 20 August 1960) is an author from Toomebridge, County Antrim in Northern Ireland. She was educated at St Mary's Grammar School, Trinity College, Dublin (BA) and at the University of East Anglia (MA). In 1994 she was Writer-in-Residence at University College, Cork and in 1997 was Writer Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin. She has travelled widely in Europe and has spent extended periods of time in both France and Italy. Deidre Madden has won various awards, such as the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Hennessy Award. She has been described as, "a pivotal voice in Northern Irish writing, her understated yet complex fictions often touching on the religious and political turmoil of the North".


  1. This does sound rather different, and like something that I would find interesting. I like books that are less traditional explorations of characters and plot, so what you said about this one being more cerebral makes me very curious. Very nice review today. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.

  2. I'm curious about this book since you loved it so much but do wonder if I would as well since the plot is thin and there's not much dialogue.

  3. This sounds different but in a good way. Almost like being inside someone's head during a long weekend.

  4. I read this in 2010, but never wrote about it.... simply couldn't find the words to describe why a book with so little plot could appeal so much. You've done a wonderful job! I would have rated it 4 stars, but totally agree with your recommendation. Great review, Amy!

  5. I enjoyed this book very much too. I enjoy a more introspective character and don't need much in plot myself but it worked well here as we learned so much about what the protagonist did not know about Molly before she spent time in her home. I reviewed it here:

  6. Thanks for this. I have a copy but haven't got to it yet. For some reason I often enjoy books that focus on the lives of actors/actresses

  7. I remember seeing this one around and thinking it looked interesting but I wasn't aware that it was cerebral. I'm always up for a cerebral novel that's also good. Will definitely add it to the wish list!