The Birthday Present

  • by Barbara Vine
  • Narrated by Ruth Sillers, Paul Blake
  • 10 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's 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, married woman named Hebe–the two become lovers, obsessed with their illicit and adventurous trysts. But when Ivor plans for a surprise daring sexual adventure as a birthday present for Hebe, things take a disastrous turn it's late spring of 1990 and a love affair is flourishing: between Ivor, a rising star of the Conservative government, and Hebe, a stunning North London housewife stuck in a dull marriage. On the eve of her birthday, Ivor gives Hebe a present to remember: a mock-kidnapping in which she is to be snatched from the street, bound and gagged, and then delivered to him. It’s all intended as mock-dangerous foreplay, but then things take a disastrous turn. After an accidental death, Ivor begins to receive anonymous letters that reveal shockingly 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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


This novel is set in the early 1990s, and it brought back memories for me of that time in English politics when it was 'every man for himself and devil take the hindmost'. Vine captures the atmosphere and values of that time extremely well, and as you would expect she populates the story with some great characters.

The plot concerns Ivor Tesham, rising young star in the Thatcher govt of the time and his affair with Hebe, a married woman with a child. His 'birthday present' to her, to have her abducted, goes horribly wrong and the rest of the story is about that dark secret as the lives of those concerned in it gradually unravel.

The story is told from the viewpoint of two characters: Ivor's brother-in-law and Jane, Hebe's 'best friend'. The brother-in-law is pretty unmemorable, I can't even remember his name - but as a story-telling device it works rather well. Jane is a wonderful complex character - narcissistic and even delusional at times I found myself swinging from feeling desperately sorry for her to rather unpleasantly thinking that she deserves all that she gets!

The novel is narrated by two readers, and I must admit that when I first heard the voice of the male my heart sank - I actively disliked his rather prissy and repressed voice and I was not sure I would stick with the book because of this. I did however find that the 'brother-in-law voice grew on me in time and fitted the character rather well, so don't be put off! The 'Jane' narrator was great fun - all the spiteful little asides were read in just the right tone of subdued venom.... what a bitch!

Perhaps the story itself doesn't have quite the pyschological depths and complexities of some of Vine's other books, nor any great surprises at the end, but still an absorbing listen.
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- Jill

great story ,expertly read.

Both readers really get into character here to give this tantalising tale the "keep going" effect. Barbara Vine expertly captures the "slease" atmosphere of the end of the last Tory government. Characters are 3D neither all good or all bad and very credible. I love Rendell/Vine stories in book format but this was my first audiobook and I will be back for more and the voices added an extra dimension.
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- Colin

Book Details

  • Release Date: 21-04-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios