Review: Molly Fox’s Birthday, by Deirdre Madden

In this quiet, contemplative book, an unnamed narrator spends a day reminiscing about her long-time friend, Molly Fox.

Molly Fox is an actor, and is generally regarded as one of the finest of her generation. (She insists upon ‘actor’: If I wrote poems would you call me a poetess?)  One of the finest but not, perhaps, one of the best known. … She likes the fear, the danger even, of the stage, and it is for the theatre that she has done her best work. Although she often appears in contemporary drama her main interest is in the classical repertoire, and her greatest love is Shakespeare.  (p. 2)

The narrator is a playwright, using Molly’s house as a retreat to work on her latest play while Molly is away in New York and London.  During the course of a day — which happens to be Molly’s birthday — she relives significant moments in their lives, and reflects on their relationships with friends and siblings.

The two met many years before, when Molly was cast in the narrator’s play, and supported each other through the highs and lows in their careers and relationships.  The narrator’s older brother, Tom, is a priest who befriended Molly and may have counseled her through some difficult situations.  Molly’s brother, Fergus, suffers from undefined psychological difficulties precipitated by traumatic events in his childhood.

As the narrator putters around Molly’s house, she recounts several events in her relationship with Molly, painting a clear picture but one that seems just a bit too cut and dry.  I suspected there was more to the story than she was letting on, perhaps more than she was willing to admit to herself.  I began to pick up on tiny clues to a deeper perspective.  When Fergus drops in to visit Molly but finds only the narrator at home, he stays to chat and ultimately provides critical insight to Molly’s character and history, casting entirely new light on everything that was revealed before.

This was a very interesting study of memory and point of view, and how personal experience shapes relationships.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Molly Fox’s Birthday, by Deirdre Madden

    • Thanks Jill! That’s what I liked about this book too. Tiny details, revealed quietly without a lot of fanfare, developing into a very different picture by the end.

  1. I wasn’t a big fan of this book, but you could have guessed that from its quiet nature. I can remember next to nothing about it now and so that shows how little impact it had on me 😦

  2. I really need to make time for this one. I’m a big fan of quiet, contemplative books. Thanks for reminding me of this gem from a few shortlists ago!

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