Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Birthday Present” as Want to Read:
Birthday Present
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Birthday Present

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  976 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Ivor Tesham is a handsome, single, young member of Parliament whose political star is on the rise. When he meets a woman in a chance encounter–a beautiful, leggy, married woman named Hebe–the two become lovers obsessed with their trysts, spiced up by what the newspapers like to call “adventure sex.”

It’s the dress-up and role-play that inspire Ivor to create a surprise bir

Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Penguin Canada (APB) (first published 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Birthday Present, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Birthday Present

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,494)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Nov 12, 2009 Barbara rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: Teresa
Shelves: mystery
It was difficult to give Barbara Vine a three star rating, but if 5 stars means a magnificent book and 4 is still excellent, then there it must be. Still, in comparison to other novelists who earn this rating, she still outshines many others in her technique and her storytelling.

The Birthday Present demonstrates how people frequently err in their decision making. Often it is because they arrived at their conclusions for the wrong reasons, or simply because they have failed to consider the implic
Mar 22, 2009 Stephen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
The same event from two different viewpoints. No gore, no who-done-it, but lots of creepy slides into craziness, and plenty of sleazy politicians. Having read the Minotaur, I would say this is almost as good as, but not quite. Still, the tension Vine builds in this book is undeniable. Read it!
Mardel Fehrenbach
Not my favorite of Barbara Vine's books, its odd detached style reminded me more of the author's voice in her more popular mystery guise as Ruth Rendell. Now I like Vine's novels and I enjoy Rendell although in a completely different way. Truthfully, it took me a little to accept this new novel as it is a bit of a departure from the author's previous novels under either name. I suppose it is a bit of a disappointment if one is expecting a typical Barbara Vine book, or even a Ruth Rendell and yet ...more
I liked this one - really catchy, although it drag a bit in the middle. The characters in this book, while not lovable, aren't the awful set (eg like in the Chimney Sweeps Boy for example). That said, she writes horrible & unlikeable characters beautifully. Jane Atherton is so well written, completely awful & we go right inside her head as she grows madder. Ivor Tresham is a philandering MP in the Thatcher Government. He has an affair with a bored young housewife, Hebe Furnal. For her bi ...more
If Crime and Punishment and Murder, She Wrote had a love child with major developmental problems due to fetal alcohol syndrome or similar, it might look a lot like this book. Except this book also employs the device of starting from the end and gradually revealing how everything happened, because the story would be too boring told in order. Even as it was, it really dragged.

Meanwhile, the attempt at a conversational tone is awkward, sometimes even painful (ex. I don't want to talk about politics
This book was just okay, not nearly as compelling or well-written as most of the Vine novels are, but not bad either -- a good book to read when your mind is tired (as mine has been). There are the usual Vine elements, such as the discontented, lonely character (who in this book is one of the two narrators) living on the fringes of society, but I questioned the choice of the other (main) narrator -- his voice didn't always work for me.
I didn't really care for this book. For some unknown reason, it began to annoy me. The "alibi" girl was a doormat and the mistress was just too, too "beautiful." I finished it, but wasn't impressed.
Like all of Vine's novels, it is about guilt and its consequences, about repressed emotions and suppressed truths, about the insidious appearance of madness in ordinary life, about twisted sex among the upper classes. And about politics, and how all of the above impinge on politics. A horny MP tries to set up a wild night of sex as a birthday present for his mistress--he has her "kidnapped" by confederates, to be brought to him bound and gagged, so much fun can ensue. But as a result of a fatal ...more
Bree T
Basically this book is about a Tory MP, Ivan Tesham – rich, well to do, ambitious, single. He meets a housewife, Hebe Furnell at something or other and they embark upon an affair as both share the same sexual…tastes. For her birthday, Ivan arranges her to be snatched from a sidewalk, blindfolded, tied up and delivered to him in a secret location. Exciting! But it all goes oh so terribly wrong.

The book isn’t told from Ivan’s point of view, nor from Hebe’s. Instead it alternates (with no real clea
Celia Powell
I quite enjoyed this, despite it being a little different to what I think of as Vine's usual style. In fact, in its slightly detached storytelling it reminded me of Vine's work as Ruth Rendell, in her non-Wexford novels. It's very much a novel of a time, and of the political scenery of that time, as well as a story about Ivor, a young conservative MP, and his affair with glamorous housewife Hebe. Things go awry after Ivor arranges a faux kidnapping for Hebe's birthday, and spiral downwards from ...more
Richard Beasley
I am never sure abut Barbara Vine
Clearly aimed at being more literary than the Ruth Rendell brand (especially Wexford), but never quite satisfying.

The premise of this with how a secret is kept, and the difference in people's attitudes. I didn't like jump to two narrative points of view, and a didn't really warm to either. I think it was god set up, but ending had been foretold and was a bit " let's stop now"

Many main complaint was with the cover. The garish cover of mine had slightly dirty fit/
I don't think this is one of Vine's best. The plot revolves around an MP's affair with a married woman, which turns from a potential sex scandal into something much larger when the woman is killed in a car crash during a faux kidnapping set up by the MP. Vine slowly unravels the wealth of complications caused by the kidnapping gone wrong, but there's less tension than in her best books, and the end is simply anticlimactic.
I was so disappointed with this book. I discovered Barbara Vine about 15 years ago and she became my favourite author. I can't read Ruth Rendell books, but when she writes as Barbara Vine she's fantastic. Until now, that is...the story was boring, the narrators' voices irritating, and the thrill of the thriller just wasn't there.
Marianne Stehr
This was horrible. I couldn't get past the first couple pages it just rambled and the characters meshed together. I never read this author before and I don't see myself picking up another one of her anytime soon.
Ruth Rendell is one of my favorite writers and the books in her Barbara Vine genre are generally truly compelling; this one, not so much.
Carole Tyrrell
I’ve always enjoyed Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine’s dark psychological dramas but not,alas, The Birthday Present.
It’s told in the first person from two different viewpoints which, initially didn’t really work for me and meant that I had to keep reminding myself who was talking. One of them was that of a really annoying character and I mentally groaned every time it was her turn.
The Birthday Present of the title refers to a plan hatched between two lovers; Ivor Teather, a rising star in Jo
A good, tense read, most of the fun of which comes from the distance between the theoretically salacious catalyst and the very ordinary narrators. "Rob" himself seems to be about as interesting as a biscuit, but deliberately so; his segments have the benefit of a social/political dimension, he is a reliable observer of the principal characters, and his comments trot along at a fine pace. "Jane" on the other hand is hideously unlikeable - a very unfinished person - and becomes more so as the book ...more
As one would expect from Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, this novel is well written and at times quite absorbing. It tells the story of a rising Tory MP whose lover dies in a car crash that was organized as part of a mock abduction / sex game. Given the circumstances, including the fact that the woman is married, he doesn't report it to the authorities and it takes several years before all the different strands pointing to him come together -- largely the self-fulfilling result of his attempts to bur ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
I always heard Barbara Vine was a good writer and she certainly has a lot of books published. The premise of this book sounded intriguing, so I decided to give her a try. She has a great premise: a Member of Parliament is having an affair with a married woman, and they are into "adventure sex." As a birthday surprise, he decides to arrange a staged "kidnapping" where she will be grabbed off the street, bound and gagged and delivered to him to do what he will with her. The adventure goes terribly ...more
The alternative title for Ruth Rendell's latest could be Death Cab for Cutie. Suave Tory MP, Ivor Tesham is indulging in a steamy affair with the lithesome blond, Hebe Furnal, who is married to Gerry, an executive for a charity foundation. Tesham and Hebe enjoy kinky sex and role playing. Tesham plans a special birthday present for Hebe (who, amusingly for me, shares my birth date of May 17th.) This birthday 'gift' is a scenario where Ivor Tesham hires an fledgling actor/cab driver and another a ...more
Kathleen Hagen
The Birthday Present, by Barbara Vine, AKA Ruth Rendell, b-plus, narrated by Paul Blake and Ruth Sillers, produced by BBC-WW, and downloaded from

This is the story of the rise and fall of one of Thatcher’s conservative government officials in parliament. He involved himself in a relationship with a housewife stuck in a boring marriage. He got the bright idea, for her birthday, to hire a couple of men to act like thugs, pick her up, tie her up and throw her in a car, and bring her int
Elise Hamilton
Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, has produced another well-crafted story. It's told very conversationally---like a friend telling you a long, drawn out story about someone you both know. In this case, the story is told by Roy, the brother-in-law of Ivor, of whom the story is about, and Jane, the "alibi-friend" of Ivor's lover, Hebe. Jane's part of the tale is via the diary she begins to keep when Hehe is accidentally killed in a car crash. If I say more I'll have to do a spoiler alert.

I ga
This was my 1st Barbara Vine book....and I really did like it. I have a few others of hers to read like The Chimney Sweeper's Boy and The House of Stairs, as well as The Brimstone Wedding and A Dark-Adapted Eye. Anyway, back to 'The Birthday Present: A Novel, a very good book about a fantasy played-out but it went way wrong. Had many elements that I like in a book...mystery, character relationships, the rise & fall of a famous figure, & I almost forgot, a murder, etc.... Would recommend ...more
Judy Mann
Okay. This is it for me and Ruth Rendell-also known as Barbara Vine. In this book- The Birthday Present-she has made so many glaring mistakes in her writing that I am really starting to wonder if her editors don't correct errors because they are just too scared of her-
For instance, in this book she refers to a debt that amounted to "one thousand million" pounds. ???
I'm sorry but does Ruth Rendell have access to Google? Can she deduce that one thousand million equals one billion?? I mean look it
Roos Boum
I read the Dutch translation "De verrassing".

Dacht ik eerst dat het boek door twee dames geschreven was, blijkt Ruth Rendell een pseudoniem te zijn voor Barbara Vine. Eh, waarom zet je dan beide namen op de cover? Afijn. Het boek. Lastig. Ik heb veel geskipped. Politiek interesseert me erg weinig en zeker buitenlandse politiek al helemaal niet. Alle bladzijden met hoe het in het Engelse parlement gaat sloeg ik over.
Wat ik enigszins verwarrend vond was de perspectiefwisseling. Het duurde telkens
Fine Barbara Vine, although if you pay attention, you can tell what the outcome will be in the first 50 pages. Rather, it's a study of a character type, the English gentleman of the old school as the novel has it, and what happens to that character when under the microscope of tabloid journalism as it plays its part in the feedback loop that is modern politics. The novel is actually set before the latest iteration of English journalism, and concerns an MP whose mistress dies in accident after be ...more
It shouldn't have been a big deal. Ivor Tesham is young, wealthy and a rising member of his party in England. Hebe is his married lover, not morally right but a commonplace sin. Hebe is willing to fulfill Ivor's fantasies, and for his birthday, they set up an elaborate game. She will be taken from the street by two armed men, bundled into their limo, and delivered bound and gagged to Ivor for the night's games.

But things go horribly wrong. There is a wreck and Hebe and one of the men are killed
Bookmarks Magazine

In her newest Barbara Vine novel, Rendell has crafted a subtly sordid tale studded with imaginative plot twists and black humor. Though she reveals Tesham's eventual downfall within the first few pages, Rendell builds a great deal of tension into her complex, tightly constructed plot, and her descriptions of Tesham's sexual adventures, though accurate, are never lurid. Interestingly, most British critics panned the novelóa possible reaction to the liberal Rendell's political leanings or a jaded

The birthday present was an interesting departure for me from the type of books I normally read. The British Parliament political information, titles etc. was a bit unfamiliar to me. Still, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I like the different chapters told from different viewpoints. While I realize that jumping around may bother some people, it seems to be a style of writing that captures my interest more so than just chapter after chapter of the same character telling the story.

While the ending of t
Candy Wood
The cover blurb identifies this as a “notable crime novel,” and that fits, but it’s more psychological thriller than mystery (it’s a long time before anything actually criminal happens, besides). Through the device of two first-person narrators, identified by context and a shift in style, we see the events from some distance—we don’t know what the principal actors are thinking. The device also sets up a plot twist that I didn’t see coming, being annoyed with both narrators, the blandness of the ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 49 50 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Talking to Strange Men
A.K.A. Ruth Rendell.

Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986. Books such as King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Anna's Book (original UK title Asta's Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects of sec
More about Barbara Vine...
A Dark-Adapted Eye Fatal Inversion The Chimney Sweeper's Boy Anna's Book The Brimstone Wedding

Share This Book