Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review: Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden

I went into this novel with some trepidation because I am always leery of books with unnamed narrators, something that seems to me to be an unnecessary pretension. But I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps because the narrator, renowned stage actress Molly Fox's close friend, is telling the story of her friendship with Molly Fox as well as who both women are, in the first person, that it feels natural for the narrator to remain nameless. The narrator is staying in London at Molly's flat while Molly is off on a tour. During the course of one day, she reflects on their longstanding friendship and draws an impressively fleshed out picture of Molly just through noticing and expounding on her surroundings and Molly's belongings in the flat. Their whole history is laid out as far as the narrator understands it, even as she subtly adds to the story as she discovers things about their longstanding friendship and indeed about Molly herself that she has never known before.

There were times when the narrative became a tad overly philosophical but for the most part, I enjoyed the subtle, sideways way of getting to know both narrator and Molly Fox. Although the current day was occasionally difficult to follow amongst the musings about their shared past, I found the way in which it all came together to create a picture of their friendship and the pockets of secrecy maintained in spite of said friendship to be fascinating. There is a definite sense of the different faces or roles we put on for the world, something that Molly, as an actress, and the narrator, as a playwright, certainly understand better than most. The idea of what we show the world, what we show only a few special people, what we keep hidden, and what we keep hidden even from ourselves runs throughout the narrative. And identity, the nature of artifice and truth, is a major theme here. The narration is rather oblique and the secondary characters only briefly come onto the stage of the pages. This is very much a poetic character driven narrative so those looking for a strong plot will not find it here. Instead, it is a well done, introspective novel that examines the nature of art and acting and how the roles we all inhabit so seamlessly play into our daily lives and our friendships.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely see where you are coming from with having an unnamed narrator. I am always leery too but it usually ends up not affecting my perception of a book.


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