The Birthday by Julie Highmore

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The Birthday by Julie Highmore

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luci Davin
Reviewed by Luci Davin
Summary: A lifetime of secrets is uncovered.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: December 2010
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755343041

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4 November 2008: That's the date of the US presidential election, and Fran's 60th birthday. Fran is nervous about her milestone birthday – she doesn't feel that old. She is worried about her husband, Duncan, who has become rather down and forgetful. As it turns out though, her planned party will be less a celebration than the catalyst for the revelation of a lifetime of secrets.

The narrative moves between several different characters – before we even meet Fran, we are introduced to Ben and Emily, her adult children, and Susie, the other woman in Duncan's life, who also has children with him. Emily, the first character we meet, is also cheating on her husband, and Ben is abusing prescription drugs.

I have really liked all the previous books I have read by Julie Highmore, but my enjoyment of this one was mixed up with more than a little frustration. Both Fran and Susie seemed like very likeable characters, but I wasn't so impressed with Fran's kids. This novel is very readable and I flew through the 400+ pages quite fast, wanting to find out how everything would be revealed and perhaps resolved, but I missed the warmth and enjoyability of Highmore's other work – the idea of more than 30 years of deception and secrecy left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. A convincing happy ending after all that time would have seemed more than a little implausible, and to her credit Highmore doesn't attempt this. The ending is interesting and convincing. I read this sort of novel for escapism and fun, not realism, though, and missed the feelgood factor of many of her earlier books. Also, I found her earlier books very funny, but I can't laugh so much at some of the layers of real hurt revealed here.

Despite my gripes about the storyline, The Birthday was a very good read, and the 4 star rating is a compromise based on my initial rating for how much I enjoyed it and a lower rating based on reservations about the content.

Thank you to Headline Review for sending a copy of this book to the Bookbag.

Another reviewer liked Julie Highmore's previous novel The Message very much. Rose Petal Soup by Sarah Harrison is another story about a woman in her 60s. Divas Don't Knit by Gil McNeil and Rowan Coleman's The Happy Home for Broken Hearts are about women in their 30s, but are very satisfying stories about rebuilding a life.

Buy The Birthday by Julie Highmore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Birthday by Julie Highmore at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Birthday by Julie Highmore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Birthday by Julie Highmore at Amazon.com.


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