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The Birthday Boys (Bainbridge, Beryl)

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  617 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
In this stunning novel, award-winning author Beryl Bainbridge offers a fictionalized account of the doomed Antarctic expedition led by Captain Scott in 1912. At once hair-raising and beautiful, here is an astonishing tale of misguided courage and human endurance. The Birthday Boys of the title are Scott and four members of his team, each of whom narrates a section of the b ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published March 30th 1995 by Carroll & Graf (first published 1991)
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LeAnne
Nov 16, 2016 LeAnne rated it it was amazing
No spoilers. When their glassy, yellow bodies were found frozen solid some eight months later, the men's journals and letters to their mothers were quietly removed from the still-intact tent. Its poles were taken down, and the canvas collapsed to cover them like a shroud. Antarctic rocks were stacked on them in a cold cairn, and all of England wept. This information is not in the book, but knowing it gives it a proper place in our minds.

TIDBIT: My friend Laura attended an author event with Donal
...more
Diane Barnes
Nov 03, 2016 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing
This fictional account of Robert Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole is chilling (no pun intended) because you know how it ends. It is told from the viewpoint of the 5 men from the crew who made the final trek from the camp to the pole, only to find that Roald Amundsen had gotten there before them. Heartbreaking to say the least, it read almost like a horror story. Fighting the elements, hunger, and exhaustion with nothing more than courage and character, these men are finally beaten by ...more
Laura
Nov 10, 2016 Laura rated it it was amazing
I have to admit most of the historical fiction that I have read is related to WWII. This historical fiction novel was a nice change. It is a story told by 5 points of view about a south pole expedition. Each account is unique and gives a different account of the same journey. This is one talented author. I highly recommend. It is very engaging even knowing what the outcome will be. Note to self: One of the books Donald Ray Pollock mentioned as an inspiration, more specifically the death of Oates ...more
Trelawn
Nov 30, 2015 Trelawn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2016
If not for the GRI continental challenge I would never have come across this book. That would have been a shame because for such a short book it gives a fascinating overview of the Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913 from the point of view of Taff Evans, Dr Wilson, Captain Scott, Lt. Bowers and Captain Oates. Each chapter charts a different stage of the journey to the South and the awful conditions the team endured. I am in awe of anyone who would undertake such a journey knowing all the risks and b ...more
Zuberino
When you think of the most famous words uttered in the heroic age of exploration, two lines stand out from the rest. One is Stanley with his greeting "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The other is Titus Oates walking out to his death in the middle of a polar storm in March 1912 with these deathless words:

"I'm just going outside and may be sometime."

What happened to Captain Oates in the moments after he emerged from the tent into the whiteness of Antarctica for the la
...more
Ned Mozier
Nov 12, 2016 Ned Mozier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine historical novel of the “failed” voyage to the south pole, Bainbridge as a woman is adept at capturing male camaraderie (there’s yet another frenchified word!) and tension during the team’s journey. Cleverly, each of the five victims who made the final assault tells a segment of the chronology. This makes for a variety of viewpoints as the reader is treated to the inner dialogue of each after hearing that of the other – a perspective-shifting device. This story is about teamwork in the ha ...more
Wanda
Oct 01, 2016 Wanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Wanda by: NetGalley
Shelves: netgalley, 2016
1 OCT 2016 - earlier this week I received an email from Netgalley inviting me to a free download of The Birthday Boys. The summary sounded appealing and last evening I downloaded the book. How can I say No? A free book in exchange for a review - that is a no-brainer.

I had full intentions to begin reading last evening; but, Showtime was showing The Hound of the Baskervilles. So, even though I have viewed this film many times, I got suckered in. I should have read instead. With my Cinderella chor
...more
Sibyl
May 11, 2011 Sibyl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an oddly perfect book about Scott's trip to the South Pole.
There are five sections, each one written in the voice of one the men making the final journey.
The perspective keeps shifting, and it's left to the reader to try and work out the 'true' nature of the expedition. Was it an act of folly? A piece of heroism? Or both?
I love Beryl Bainbridge's work because she dispenses with so many conventions. The only 'plot' is the story of the journey itself. And like the journey there are unexpec
...more
Nancy
Sep 24, 2016 Nancy rated it it was amazing
I was about twelve when I picked up The Great White South from Dad's bookshelf and started reading. It was written by the Scott Antarctic expedition photographer Herbert Ponting.

In 1910, Captain Robert Falcon Scott sailed from Cardiff. His scientific expedition hoped to be the first to reach the South Pole. Everything went wrong, "the first great catastrophe on the record of Antarctic exploration," wrote the editor of Everybody's Magazine, which shared Ponting's photos and Scott's diary excerpts
...more
Tina
Dec 03, 2016 Tina rated it really liked it
The Birthday Boys is an interesting piece of historical fiction based on Robert Scott's fatal exploration of Antarctica and his scientific race to the pole with a brave group of men. Told by five of the men on the expedition, you got a real sense of each persons personality, past and opinions of their teammates.

I didn't know when I signed up to read this with a small group that this novel would hold so much fact between its' pages of fiction. This is a worthy read for anyone that enjoys historic
...more
Kara
Jan 04, 2017 Kara rated it liked it
I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. It took me awhile to get into it. I started liking it when Birdie was the one talking, so more then half way in is when I got into it. I had so high hopes for it and it didn't become to story I was hoping for.
Gail Pool
Oct 11, 2016 Gail Pool rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many books have been written about Robert Falcon Scott’s fatal expedition to the South Pole, but none I’ve read is more gripping than Beryl Bainbridge’s novel, The Birthday Boys. From the outset, we know the conclusion: the five men on the final run will reach the Pole, will find that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen has beat them to it, and will die returning to camp. But Bainbridge brings the men so fully to life, we feel we’re with them in their present, unaware of what lies ahead.

The novel is in
...more
Alix
May 17, 2014 Alix rated it really liked it
Adventures to the South Pole are not normally my thing, but Bainbridge writes this in such a way as to draw even the not normally entranced reader in. Each chapter is told by a different member of the party, and each narrator/narrative is entirely different. There are a lot of confusing things (hard to follow who is who at first, and some of the vocabulary is unfamiliar, and I can't make heads or tails of the geography in terms of where they are at any given point), but I gradually came to care ...more
Lara
Not 100% sure how I feel about this book. I didn't really feel fully invested until Oates' short chapter at the very end, and at that point I could tell what Bainbridge had been building up to, somewhat, but for the most part I've actually found every other non-fiction account of this expedition I've read way more compelling. I do like that she shows Scott as complex and human, and not just some rigid, idiot bumbler like many make him out to be, and also not just a posthumous national hero. I th ...more
Linden
Jun 11, 2012 Linden rated it it was amazing
Scott of the Antarctic. Devastating novelistic presentation of the expedition.
NocturnalBlaze
Mar 14, 2016 NocturnalBlaze rated it it was ok
La versione romanzata di una grande avventura d'esplorazione questa che, seppur partendo da premesse interessanti, si realizza in maniera manchevole, complice la strutturazione un po' confusionaria della storia, la presenza di moltissimi personaggi, la situazione generale caotica e spesso spiegata solo superficialmente. Elementi che si salvano ci sono, per carità, ma nel complesso l'ho trovato un libro mediocre, a tratti quasi noioso e superfluo.
Come accennavo, i personaggi sono molti ed essend
...more
Mr
Jun 23, 2013 Mr rated it liked it
A fictionalized account of the doomed, foolhardy 1910-13 Antarctic expedition led by Captain Robert Falconer Scott. The story is related by five different members of the “Terra Nova” Expedition--Scott himself and four of the men personally selected by Scott for the doomed “Polar Party.” Each of the five explorers is granted his own section of this slender book, and all of the “Birthday Boys” are, to varying degrees, classic unreliable narrators.

Petty Officer Edgar (“Taff”) Evans, the giant Welsh
...more
Dario Vaccaro
May 17, 2016 Dario Vaccaro rated it really liked it
"The Birthday Boys" by Baryl Bainbridge is a 1991 novel about the 1910s British expedition to the South Pole that caused the death of all the five members of the final run to it. What's most interesting to note right away is the fact that Bainbridge chose not to speculate on this, ending the story before most of their demises. It's a powerful ending, and arguably the most interesting part of a very interesting book. The whole point of the novel is explained in the title: Bainbridge wants to huma ...more
Ally
Jun 22, 2013 Ally rated it really liked it
I'm going to preface this with the following pieces of information:
1. I have a significant interest (read: obsession) with the 1912 expedition and the mythologizing and subsequent demonizing of the members of that trip.
2. While I am by no means an expert on Scott I have read a fair deal of books on the expedition, including Scott's journals, bios, Cherry's book, etc.

The issue that many people have, mainly that it is distracting to fictionalize real people and presuppose their thoughts/feelings/e
...more
Tamsin Burford
Oct 09, 2013 Tamsin Burford rated it really liked it
Creative personal reflection of the ill fated expedition of Captain Scott et al. A personal reflection because the author uses five different voices representing five different members of the team. The characters come forth in the writing quite well but I would have liked them to be more delineated. I found the long gaps int eh story difficult as I wanted to know more about those missing times.

A problem with this type of fictionalised account of very real events is that we allow ourselves to won
...more
Ron
Oct 27, 2014 Ron rated it really liked it
Scott's final, fatal South Polar expedition is narrated by five of the crew, including Scott, called The Owner and Con by various of the other "boys." Bainbridge renders it as a fiasco from the start, the Terra Nova a leaky tub requiring constant pump-manning, the ponies Scott wanted instead of dogs a spavined broken winded bunch badly chosen and ill-suited for Antarctic conditions, finances and supplies stretched thin. What they put up with is beyond comprehension, really, and the fact that the ...more
Greenelander
Jul 19, 2011 Greenelander rated it it was amazing
Shelves: white
Surely these were giants, not men. Their accomplishments are that huge, that breath-taking, that mythical. Yet, as Bainbridge portrays them in her spare and glittering prose, they were on the face of it ordinary chaps who simply managed to land themselves in the greatest quest then left on earth. The expedition, from its hopeful if fraught beginnings to its tragic end, becomes an extended metaphor for life, of course. When you consider the almost reverent tone in which some of the men refer to t ...more
Gilahk
Oct 24, 2013 Gilahk rated it it was ok
Perhaps I was influenced by the raging snow storm outside my bedroom as I read the final chapters of this extremely well documented and rich in detail story of the doomed Scott expedition to the South Pole. (this is not a spoiler because everyone knows what happened)
I can understand men out looking for adventure and wanting to do things that had not been done before, but it seems to be so against the instinct of self-presevation for one to voluntarily go to such an extreme environment.

The last f
...more
Brenda Clough
Nov 22, 2013 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing
A delicious book for all fans of polar exploration. The Scott expedition cries out for fictional treatment (I have done some work in this line myself) and this one is a great novel -- as I recall it was a finalist for the Booker award. Bainbridge was at the height of her powers when she wrote this, so it is the work of a master. The work is told from four or five separate viewpoints, and you can savor how beautifully the author gets into the voice of each man.
It helps if you (as probably all Bri
...more
Emily-rose Guillebeau
Feb 16, 2009 Emily-rose Guillebeau rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
This is one of the first books I read while I was in France. I read it in two sittings at the hostel, and I could have read it in one if my roommate hadn't insisted on sleeping. A fictional account of a doomed turn-of-century expedition to the south pole told in the first person by multiple narrators. Beryl Bainbridge uses the same narrative style in the Booker short-listed Master Georgie. Personally, I preferred Birthday Boys, but all of Bainbridge's books are such a joy to read. She creates pe ...more
R
I've read a lot on non-fiction on Scott's Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole so was interested to see how a novel based on it would work. Overall a success and a good read but I think Bainbridge got Evans character wrong. Since his section is the opening of the book it's sets the novel off badly. I was unconvinced that a rough Welsh sailor at the turn of the century would speak and think like that. The Scott and Oates sections are the strongest, she nails their characters much more accurate ...more
Amy
Apr 09, 2016 Amy rated it liked it
The style of this book was interesting, told from the perspective of five different members of Robert Scott's South Pole team. But there was not enough development in any of the perspectives to make me really care about the characters or the expedition. The descriptions of the atmosphere were vivid and horrifying. But I knew the team was doomed from the start, and there was nothing in the book to compel me to continue reading other than my own insistence on pushing through. There also wasn't eno ...more
KJ
Feb 14, 2013 KJ rated it it was amazing
This excellent account of Scott's final fatal expedition was recommended to me by a friend who is an amateur expert on the Shackleton and Scott Antarctic journeys. The fact that he still found Bainbridge's novel a valuable addition to his reading list speaks volumes really. This very short novelised account makes for difficult reading as the different characters step forward to have their say on the situation. Sensibly Bainbridge chose to omit Cherry-Garrard, whose The Worst Journey in the World ...more
Bernadette Robinson
This was one of my local Library Reading Group reads and to be honest if it wasn't for the Reading Group I would never have picked it up. The group had previously read another one of hers ~ Every Man for Himself, which was based on events surrounding the Titanic and I gave that a 5/10.

This one was based on the men accompanying Captain Scott on his expedition to reach the South Pole, it's a fictional tale but I just couldn't get on with it at all.

I gave it a 2/10 or 1 star and have decided that
...more
Tim Petersik
Jan 26, 2013 Tim Petersik rated it really liked it
Almost step of the Robert "Falcon" Scott attempt to be the first to set foot on the South Pole was tragic. Facing horrible weather, even for the pole, and hindered by the use of ponies rather than sled dogs, Scott's group nearly died reaching the pole. When they got they found that the Norseman Bundeson had beaten them using sled dogs. The entire group perished from hunger and cold on the disastrous trek back to base. In this novel, Bainbridge fictionalizes the famous story, making it seems as t ...more
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Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge DBE was an English writer from Liverpool. She was primarily known for her works of psychological fiction, often set among the English working classes. Bainbridge won the Whitbread Award twice and was nominated for the Booker Prize five times. In 2008, The Times newspaper named Bainbridge among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
More about Beryl Bainbridge...

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“It wasn't all misery. On one of our halts we lay spreadeagled on the ice and stared up at a sky blazing with the glory of the most wonderful aurora I'd ever witnessed. I groaned beneath the splendour of those silken curtains, yellow, green, and orange, billowing at the window of the heavens.” 2 likes
“The next day,’ I’d conclude, ‘when we’d returned safely to base camp, ice flowers had formed on the newly frozen sea, sculptured blooms like those waxen wreaths in the cemeteries of home.” 1 likes
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