The Birthday House is a book that sounds – by title alone – that it’s going to be a fun little contemporary, but if you thought that, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong.
See, part of me feels pretty bad for making that joke/pun because The Birthday House is a serious story with a serious history. But the other part of me reminds me that I have a dark sense of humour AND that I can joke about something but still appreciate it.
The Birthday House gives us a multiple points-of-view and time-jumpy perspective on a pretty disturbing and upsetting murder.
The story that happens in The Birthday House is fictional, but it is based on a very real set of murders in the 1950s. What makes this even more of an upsetting story is the additional layer of knowledge when you know that author Jill Treseder has written the book from her own experience. Jill lost her best friend to the real-life version of these murders when she was a child, and so The Birthday House seems like an exercise in closure, or coming to terms with what happened.
So The Birthday House kicks off with the discovery of a family murder – a seemingly loving and happy father one day kills his wife, child and dog (jeez, I hate it when stories kill off the dog – it’s harder than human death to me) and then himself. The bodies are found by the housekeeper, Mrs Harrison, in the second chapter and this chapter was probably the most striking to me.
This is a bit of a problem because the ‘best’ chapter, for my reading experience, was the second one – it seemed to peak a bit too early for me. Each chapter is told from a different characters perspective, as well as jumping though time, which allows us to experience the story from multiple points of view and we can explore the story in more depth.
Each chapter is also written in the specific characters own style of speech and maturity with life. I tend to find this a little bit grating at times when things are written in dialects, and that’s still the case for The Birthday House – but that’s a personal preference.
The novel is much less of a story about murder and finding out the ‘why’s’ than it is a character study of several characters and their coping mechanisms with grief.
All in all, The Birthday House is a good, short novel about exploring the human condition in relation to trauma and would be a good travel book or a ‘quick read’. I did have some issues with it, but these are personal preferences.
The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon.
In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place.
Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.
Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.
Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past
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[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review. I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions are honest and my own.
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