Molly Fox’s Birthday was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009. I didn’t know that when I picked it up at the library but now that I do I’m hoping to catch up on some reviews – I especially love reading other people’s thoughts on books I have recently read.
I first heard about this book over at Bookeywookey who raved about it. I liked it a lot, it almost felt like a comfort read; a character study where action wise not a lot happens.
The story takes place over a single day, the longest day of the year which also happens to be the birthday of Molly Fox – an occasion she never allows to celebrated. The narrator, a playwright and an old friend of Molly’s is staying in her house in Dublin, a house swap between the two – Molly being in New York for her work as an actress.
The narrator is struggling to write a new play and spends most of the day in Molly’s house, revelling in the wonderful home she has made for herself and reflecting on their lives and that of Andrew a mutual friend. It doesn’t sound overly exciting and it isn’t but it’s such a lovely piece of writing about the mostly ordinary and some not so ordinary events that make up our lives.
As an actress, Molly is much loved by the public and she is at the centre of the narrators reflections. Theatre life and life in the public eye are examined through the characters as is the question of identity. Despite giving generously of herself on the stage, Molly in real life is shy and reserved. The question of how much of our outer persona is an act and who really knows us is a central theme as is the meaning of family, friendship and home.
A small point is that there are no chapters in this story. This is an understandable choice as it happens over one day and the thoughts and events of the day flow from one to the other. I absolutely prefer a book with chapters. I like the satisfaction of finishing a chapter, of being able to put a book down at the end of a chapter rather than the end of a section or page.
The funny thing is that I have just started The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt and have discovered it has no chapters either! Maybe there is a message in there for me somewhere…
Molly Fox’s Birthday is a perfect book to read over a lazy day or weekend especially if you are in a quiet, contemplative mood.