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The Birthday Boys

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  571 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
The four men who accompanied Captain Scott on his doomed expedition each tell their own story in this fictional reconstruction of the attempt to reach the South Pole.
Paperback, 181 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Abacus Software (first published 1991)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,156)
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Jun 04, 2016 Trelawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 11, 2011 Sibyl rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 04, 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
Nov 11, 2014 Alix rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Sep 25, 2016 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Newcomb
Apr 15, 2016 John Newcomb rated it liked it
An interesting take on the Scott debacle told through his eyes and those of his victims.
Jun 11, 2012 Linden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scott of the Antarctic. Devastating novelistic presentation of the expedition.
Dario Vaccaro
May 21, 2016 Dario Vaccaro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Letto in inglese.
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 son
Nov 11, 2013 Mr rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 21, 2013 Ally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tamsin Burford
Oct 09, 2013 Tamsin Burford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 27, 2014 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2011 Greenelander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2013 Gilahk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2016 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brenda Clough
Nov 22, 2013 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily-rose Guillebeau
Feb 16, 2009 Emily-rose Guillebeau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2013 R rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 21, 2013 KJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tim Petersik
Jan 26, 2013 Tim Petersik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 16, 2016 Kristina rated it liked it
Shelves: polar
I'm not sure what it's possible to add to the familiar tale of Scott's fateful Antarctic voyage. Beryl Bainbridge has taken the well known anecdotes and phrases from the expedition and woven them into first person marrations from the five members of the poplar party, starting from before they even left England.
To my mind, this doesn't heighten the emotional nature of what happened. Nothing can equal the sheer facts of the hell these men went through in their pursuit of the South Pole. Perhaps th
Sep 23, 2014 Lida rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beryl Bainbridge provides a lot of food for thought in this book, providing five disparate narrators and glimpses of life before the second polar expedition of Falcon Scott, as well as detailing the challenges of what must have been a truly horrendous experience. It was hard for me to get into a rhythm with this book, with lot of oblique references to earlier events and some unfamiliar English slang. I found that as it went on, it got easier for me to read. I highly recommend this book.
Aug 29, 2011 Trawets rated it it was amazing
The Birthday Boys is a fictionalised account by Beryl Bainbridge of Scott's second Antarctic expedition.
Told from the standpoint of the five members of the polar team who all died on the return journey, it at times comic, exciting and also of course tragic.
I enjoyed this book so much that after finishing it I started reading "The Unsung Hero" the story of Tom Crean, an Irish seaman who made three journeys to the Antarctic and is acknowledged by his peers to be one the polar greats.
Jer McS
Apr 21, 2014 Jer McS rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Among Bainbridge's best, easily.
The cynical and sometimes misanthropic narrative POV of some of her '70s fiction (re: Injury Time, The Dressmaker, The Bottle Factory Outing, Sweet William, etc) is always amusing...when you're in the mood.
This one, however, is a big change of pace. Not only is the subject matter historical, but the tone is empathetic and heartfelt. A chilling, tragic account of a doomed expedition.
Donna Davis
The Birthday Boys is a fictionalized account of the Scott expedition’s travel to Antarctica in 1910. It’s told sequentially through the perspectives of five men that participate, each picking up where the last has left off and of course, also including some personal reflections and memories to make them more real to us. I was invited to read and review this novel based on my enjoyment of the book Ice Brothers, which was also a maritime tale. Thank you to Net Galley and Open Road Media, but this ...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.” 1 likes
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