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.