9780307460479

The Birthday Present

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780307460479

  • ISBN10:

    0307460479

  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-03-02
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
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Summary

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 birthday present for his beloved that involves a curbside kidnapping. It's all intended as mock-dangerous foreplay, but then things take a dark turn. After things go horribly wrong, Ivor begins to receive anonymous letters that reveal astonishingly specific details about the affair and its aftermath. Somehow he must keep his role from being uncovered - and his political future from being destroyed by scandal. Like a heretic on the inquisitor's rack, Ivor is not to be spared the exquisitely slow and tortuous unfolding of events, as hints, nuances, and small revelations lay his darkest secrets hideously bare for all the world to see. The Birthday Present is a deft, insightful, and compulsively readable exploration of obsessive desire - and the dark twists of fate that can shake the lives of even those most insulated by privilege, sophistication, and power. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Barbara Vine’s acclaimed novels include The Minotaur, The Blood Doctor, and Anna’s Book. She has won many awards for literary accomplishment, both as Barbara Vine and as Ruth Rendell, including three Edgar Awards and four Gold Daggers.

Excerpts

1

Thirty-three is the age we shall all be when we meet in heaven because Christ was thirty-three when he died. It’s an interesting idea. One can’t help thinking that the people who invent these things chose it because it’s an ideal age, no longer one’s first youth but not aging either. It was Sandy Caxton who told me this when I sat next to him at Ivor’s birthday dinner, his thirty-third of course, and Ivor said afterward that Sandy had a store of that sort of wisdom. My own opinion is that Sandy was just changing the subject because I’d asked him if he lived in London.

“I’m awfully sorry,” he said, “but I can’t tell you that.” And, noticing my mystified look, “I used to be the Northern Ireland Secretary, you see, and we’re not supposed to tell anyone where we live.”

I did see. I should have known. Ivor told me there was even a bodyguard somewhere at the party, and wherever it was that Sandy lived the police with sniffer dogs searched the local church before he went to matins. Not that it did him any good in the end. They still got him at the time they chose. But more of that later. Iris had been sitting next to Ivor’s friend Jack Munro, a favorite of hers, and it was rather reluctantly that she said good-bye to him, as she and I had to leave before the others. We had a trustworthy babysitter, but we wanted to get back to Nadine. She was our first child, the first of our four, and we were both so besotted that we fretted if we were away from her for long. Even to celebrate her uncle’s heavenly birthday. Even when she was in the care of one of her grandmothers.

There was one person close to Ivor (in a manner of speaking) absent from the party.

“Ivor’s girlfriend wasn’t there,” I said as we were going up Fitzjohn’s Avenue.

“She wouldn’t have been asked. You know Ivor. In some ways he’s living in the distant past. One doesn’t invite the mistress to meet one’s friends.” Iris made the face she always used to make when her brother’s peculiarities came up, her smile a little rueful. “Besides, having to spend an evening out with her instead of in with her he’d think a waste of time.”

“It’s like that, is it?”

“It’s probably only like that,” she said.

Mention his name and most people will say, “Who?” while the rest think for a bit and ask if he wasn’t “the one who got involved in all that sleaze back in whenever it was . . .”

Necessarily, because my brother-in-law was a politician through and through, I’ll have to talk about politics. But increasingly I find how ignorant I am and how much the minutiae of politics bore me. I shall gloss over a great deal of this aspect of Ivor’s life, only touching on what I hope are the interesting bits and, of course, because no one could speak of this period and leave them out, the departure of Margaret Thatcher, the coming of John Major, and the general elections of 1992 and 1997.

I’m putting in Jane Atherton’s diary. Not just some of it but the whole thing as it was sent to Juliet. Ivor’s history and, come to that, Hebe Furnal’s wouldn’t be complete without it. The package arrived and then a letter under separate cover, as they say. Ivor never saw either. I don’t suppose he even knew of the existence of the diary. Too much had happened to him for any more risk-taking, and he was keeping his head buried in the sand. Jane was a friend of Hebe’s and about as unlike her, it seems, as two female creatures belonging to the same species and living in the same time can be unlike each other. I suppose she was of use to Hebe. Whatever else she may have done for her, apart from filling a role as foil to her particular charms, sh

Excerpted from The Birthday Present: A Novel by Barbara Vine
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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