Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden: Book Review

I loved Molly Fox’s Birthday by Irish author, Deirdre Madden.

It takes place in one day, that day being Molly Fox’s birthday. Her friend, the unnamed narrator is staying in Molly’s house in Dublin whilst Molly is away and she reminisces about their friendship, wondering why Molly doesn’t like to celebrate her birthday. Molly is an actress and her friend a playwright, who has written plays in which Molly acted. Their friendship goes back a long way and during this one day she contemplates their past, how their relationship evolved and the relationships with their friends and families.

She thinks about their mutual friend Andrew, an art historian, Fergus, Molly’s disturbed brother, Tom, her own brother who is a priest and during the day both Andrew and Fergus turn up an announced on Molly’s doorstep. It’s written at a gentle pace, with vivid descriptions of the setting – the house and garden in Dublin

The big clock at the head of the stairs bonged softly for nine-thirty. I carried the mug out of the kitchen, into the hall and through to the sitting room. It looked this morning like some kind of jewelled casket, like a box of treasures. sunlight caught on copper and brass, was reflected in polished wood and mirrors. All this glitter and brightness was offset by the rich dark colours of the kilims on the floor. (page 44)

It’s a novel about identity as well as family and friendship, about how we see other people and how they see us. For example she had never really got to know Fergus but had heard of his problems from Molly. During her conversation on this day she realised that the Fergus she knew through Molly ‘timid, weak, a failure in life‘ had disappeared and the man she now knew for herself was a ‘man of wisdom and acute moral knowledge‘. It’s a novel about character and about the parts we play as well as the people we are, what we hide from others and what we reveal  to others. It’s the sort of book I could happily re-read and still find plenty to think about.

My first book towards the Ireland Reading Challenge.

10 thoughts on “Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden: Book Review

  1. Somehow I missed this when it first came out, although everyone in my library group was raving about it. I can see I’m going to have to go back and find a copy, although with luck everyone else in the group will by now have read it and there will be plenty in the system.


  2. This one sounds excellent. I like the idea of getting different views on characters because that is so intriguing – and realistic.


  3. Margaret – Thanks for this excellent review. I really enjoy novels where we get different perspectives on the same characters, and I’m intrigued by the way the lives here seem to intertwine in such an interesting way.


  4. This is a new title to me – haven’t heard of it before! Thanks for the wonderful review – I’ve added it to the main challenge page. 🙂


  5. Margaret, this sounds so, so good, and you wrote about it beautifully. When I first read the title, I thought it was a kids’ book. Did it bother you that the narrator wasn’t named?


    1. Nan, it didn’t bother me at all that the narrator isn’t named. In fact I was nearly at the end of the book before I realised and had to double check to make sure she isn’t named. The writing drew me in so completely into her persona that it didn’t matter. And yet each time I read Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ I want to know the narrator’s name. Odd isn’t it?


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