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?
As a dyed-in-the-wool fan of True Crime I was intrigued by the premise of this book which is based on real life events. I was delighted to be part of the blog tour organised by the fab #RandomThings Queen, @AnneCater and couldn’t wait to dive in and find out more about this intriguing tale.
This book definitely did not disappoint, it definitely pulled me right into the story. I was really intrigued by the premise of the book: that this is something that really took place and this really added to the story for me. The way that perfectly ordinary front doors can hold dark secrets behind them was something that really intrigued me and something that I couldn’t stop thinking about as as the novel unfolded.
I absolutely loved the unique feel of this novel and definitely found it really engrossing. I felt that it perfectly encapsulated the tiny minutiae of everyday life in Dartmouth and how that can all be shattered in a split second – which is portrayed most skilfully by Jill Treseder.
Even though The Birthday House deals with domestic issues and village life, it does it in an original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. The characters all feel very much like real people – rather than mechanisms to explore an issue – which I’ve often found in novels which want to look at the way we respond to trauma or tragedy.
Jill Treseder is an intriguing writer – and not just because we share a name – it’s hard to talk about this novel without spoilers, so I’ll just need to tell you that you must read it for yourself. You will be drawn into this story and feel transported back to the 1950s with Josephine and her family – feeling as caught up in the story as Susan before you finish. It’s not one of these ‘keep looking for the big twist’ stories that people are getting a little bored of now. It’s one of those books that stays with you after you finish reading it though as you’ll think hard about the banality of murder and how it could literally happen anywhere – even in your street.
Anyone interested in family relationships, the effect of trauma and mental illness will love this novel. I was really intrigued by The Birthday House and I’m delighted to say that I was definitely not disappointed. Even though this book touched on dark and bleak subject matters at times, it was dealt with very competently and originally and never felt derivative or ‘same old’ same old
The Birthday House was a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its pace and the way it really made me think. I can’t wait to see what Jill Treseder does next. I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion…
Writer On The Shelf
Jill Treseder was born in Hampshire and lived all her childhood in sight of the sea on the Solent and in Devon, Cornwall and West Wales. She now lives with her husband in Devon overlooking the River Dart.
After graduating from Bristol with a degree in German, Jill followed careers in social work, management development and social research, obtaining a PhD from the School of Management at the University of Bath along the way. Since 2006 she has focused on writing fiction.
“An engaging, accomplished, structurally-bold examination of a Fifties family tragedy told from the points of view of all involved, The Birthday House is also a profound meditation on grief and trauma and how it can shape us for the whole of our lives.” – Peter Stanford
“As always, Jill Treseder paints pictures in the air and brings her characters vividly to life. A beautifully written and captivating story of love and loss.” – Ian Hobbs, Devon Book Club