Molly Fox’s Birthday

by Lisa Kirchner

Nothing happens in Molly Fox’s Birthday. The plot is entirely uneventful, charting a day in the life of the narrator, a celebrated playwright, who is staying in Dublin at the home of her best friend, the Molly Fox of the title.

The narrator wanders around the house, eats meals, takes a walk into town, and is visited by three unexpected, but by no means shocking, guests. It is the very lack of excitement that gives the narrator time to reflect, and those reflections are the real stuff and substance of the book. Her two main preoccupations are her relationships, with Molly and Andrew, her other closest friend, and her work. She is beginning a new play and turning over in her mind all her thoughts about art and nature, the need for theater, the danger and value of theaters two-faced quality of dissembling and truth. A certain graceful restraint permeates the short work, including its modest length. Though this is a novel of ideas, it does not expound, but collects small anecdotes and observations that elucidate the issue, often providing more questions than answers, and is content with its own ambiguity. Molly Foxs Birthday, which was a finalist for the Orange Prize last year and is being newly reissued by Picador in the U.S., is an invitation to contemplation. Maddens sympathetic characters have a complexity that gives them real weight and pathos, so that their ideas about the relationship between art and life, between artifice and nature, are engrossing enough to sustain vivid interest even in the utter absence of plot.

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