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

The Birthday Boys

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  946 ratings  ·  118 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 April 20th 1995 by Da Capo Press (first published 1991)
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 The Birthday Boys, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Ruth The first part deals with the ocean voyage down through the Atlantic.
Wolf Hall by Hilary MantelI, Claudius by Robert GravesKatherine by Anya SetonThe Three Musketeers by Alexandre DumasClaudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert Graves
378 books — 79 voters
Outlander by Diana GabaldonThe Firm by John GrishamSophie's World by Jostein GaarderNeedful Things by Stephen KingThe Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
Best Books of 1991
342 books — 143 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  946 ratings  ·  118 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Birthday Boys
LeAnne: GeezerMom
ON SALE THIS WEEK FOR $1.99! Trust me - the most gorgeous, cold weather book you can find. This lady could write!
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 bo
Diane Barnes
Nov 03, 2016 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
Nov 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I think I turned this 5 star read into a 3 star read for myself by not doing a little research before I started it. This is a fictionalized account of a doomed expedition to Antartica led by Captain Scott in 1912, told in 5 parts by various team members. Unfortunately our various narrators are a bit unreliable though extremely interesting. However by not knowing the facts of the true story, I found it a little confusing. It's a short book that gets much better by the end which is when I started ...more
Nov 10, 2016 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
Trust me, I'll never set foot in the South Pole after reading this book but doubt I'll ever forget the voices of these five men who did.

"I dare say that you think you've known what it is to be cold . . . But you can't know . . . Not until you've been south. To be cold is when the temperature sinks to -60F and . . . the snot freezes in your nostrils and your breath snaps like a fire-cracker on the air and falls to ice in your beard."
~ Petty Officer Edgar Evans, June 1910

". . . any doubts I may h
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
There are many fine reviews of this book already in the Goodreads database. I can add very little except to emphasize that a basic understanding of the events surrounding the Terra Nova Expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott in 1910 was essential to my appreciation of this short novel.

The author does not provide any sense of the chronology of the expedition. The novel consists of five “chapters”, each written in the voice of one of the five men who died on the return trip from the South
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Gets inside the heads of the fated explorers of Scott's doomed polar expedition.
Nov 30, 2015 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
Nov 12, 2016 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
Oct 01, 2016 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
May 11, 2011 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
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
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
Gail Pool
Oct 11, 2016 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
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered Beryl Bainbridge because she was one of the authors in this year's Mookse Madness. I had not heard of her, even though she had, I think, five novels on various Man Booker long/short lists. The Birthday Boys was not one of those, but it certainly could have been. It was first published in 1991 and concerns the ill-fated second attempt of Captain Robert Conrad Scott to reach the South Pole in 1910-1913. While Captain Scott did make it, he was not the first and he and his companions di ...more
Dec 03, 2016 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
Fiona Hewlett-parker
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-reads
Mesmerizing. Everyone knows this story, but this narrative, taken from the perspectives of different members of the expedition, is beautifully written and a vivid insight into a world that is lost forever. I wonder whether Scott was even aware of the mistakes that were made? A noble adventure?
Jan 04, 2017 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.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Most people first read this book and after that get interested in the actual expedition and start reading the diaries. Well, for me it was the other way around and I read it after already knowing much about the Terra Nova expedition.
What was so appealing to me about this book was the point of view from every member of the polar party!

Petty Officer Evans tells us about the departure of the ship, his drinking problem, the special relationship he and "the Owner" share, meanwhile Dr. Wilson thinks
MisterLiberry Head
Jun 23, 2013 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 Wels
May 17, 2014 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
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Eh, I didn't completely care for this. It wasn't bad, but I've read polar exploration accounts before and this didn't seem much more than that. It fleshes out some character and rotates to give some different perspectives, but it just seemed so much like a standard polar exploration account that I didn't get as interested as I thought I should be. There are some various failings that contribute to the failure, but much of it is still just bad things can happen in those situations. I just felt as ...more
Andy Weston
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: arctic explorers (and those interested) everywhere
Well... I was just getting into it, and it finished! It just seems too short - as if only parts of the story are told. I guess that may be her point, but it left me a bit disappointed!
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Scott of the Antarctic. Devastating novelistic presentation of the expedition.
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beryl Bainbridge reimagines Captain Scott's expedition to Antarctica on the Terra Nova in this novel, through the eyes of most of the men. Her ability to put herself into the minds of such different characters as Birdie and Captain Scott is brilliant, and her descriptions of Antarctica are irradiant. However, this is an extremely harrowing story and difficult to read. I also thought that she was quite hard on Captain Scott - she takes a dim view of his capricious character, his tendency towards ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel-uk
Nice short novel about the doomed Scott expedition to the South Pole. There are 5 chapters narrated by alternate members of the expedition--in fact the five who died, now that I think of it--who narrate different facets of the expedition. This is not your typical historical novel that lays everything out and provides detailed background on the age, so some prior knowledge (ahem, Wikipedia) is helpful.
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Will read more of Bainbridge.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley
Received via Open Road Media and NetGalley in exchange for an completely unbiased review.
Also posted on Silk & Serif

The Birthday Boys is a novel about perseverance. This novel is a look at humanity in the face of increasingly inhospitable conditions and the camaraderie of a group of ill-fated scientific explorers whose story is evidently famous. Personally, I know little of this expedition and have only read works on the Shackleton expedition. I honestly had no idea there was a second expedi
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book . Rated 3.5 of 5

This book is an unusual format for a work of fiction ... and at the same time, it's not quite fiction.

The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge is a historical fiction account of the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott-led trip to Antarctica. It's a relatively quick and easy read, and even if the reader doesn't know the outcome before beginning the book, it shouldn't take long for the outcome to be anticipated.

What is slightly unu
Dario Vaccaro
May 17, 2016 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
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Mezzanine
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)
  • The Eye in the Door (Regeneration, #2)
  • A Thousand Moons (Days Without End #2)
  • The Status Civilization
  • Time's Arrow
  • Girl, Woman, Other
  • The Lost Garden
  • Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, Second Edition: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process
  • Passing On
  • Akin
  • Collected Poems
  • The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction
  • Wasted Calories and Ruined Nights: A Journey Deeper into Dining Hell
  • Borges in Sicily
  • The Cockroach
  • Of Literature and Lattes
  • Resistance (Nomad #3)
See similar books…
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".

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
8 likes · 6 comments
“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
“I left him and went up on deck to look out at the slithering city, its glitter of street lamps fizzy under the rain. There’s something wrong about a ship in dock, something pathetic, like a bird fluttering in a spill of oil. The Nova was tethered to her berth by ropes and chains, caught in a pool of greasy water. I could feel her shifting under my feet, tugging to be free.” 1 likes
More quotes…