The Birthday House
by Jill Treseder
It’s my stop on the “The Birthday House” blog tour! Thanks very much to Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours and author Jill Treseder who have kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
A friendship. A murder. A life that will never be the same.
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?
On name alone “The Birthday House” sounds like it’s going to be a cheery upbeat story, right? A house where it’s always someone’s birthday, full of birthday presents, party poppers and big smiley grins. This story is not like that at all, rather it’s a heart-wrenching story of murder.
“I found it hard to say that my best friend was dead. It was embarrassing, as if I were trying to draw attention to myself, get sympathy. I was a fact. That was all
I found it even harder to say: “My best friend was killed.” It seemed like showing off, on top of all the above.”
Author Jill Treseder has written this book from her own experience, having lost her best friend to this real-life crime 64 years ago. While the deaths are real, the story is fictional, aiming to explore how and why a loving father one day decided to kill his wife, child and dog before turning the gun on himself.
This story is short at just under 150 pages, so it’s a quick read. Each chapter is told from a different perspective which gives us the opportunity to try and understand this crime from all sides of the story. Each of these chapters are written in the characters own style, showing a little of their personality through their word and sentence choices.
The 4 bodies (mother, father, daughter and dog) are found by the housekeeper Mrs Harrison, and it was this chapter that I found the most powerful. Mrs Harrison turns up to her place of work ready for a day of housework, surprised that no one is around to greet her, but without any real concern. When she finds the bodies, she, and the reader, can’t help but wonder what on earth must have happened.
This book gives us just a small glance at a family tragedy during the 1950s. As the main plot of the story is known from the very beginning, it’s more of a character study, exploring how grief and trauma affected all of those involved.
Some of the individual writing styles didn’t really work for me, but in general I found I was really engaged in the story so if this sounds like your kind of read, I’d definitely recommend you give it a go.
Overall rating: “The Birthday House” is a powerful short read examining a real-life murder during the 1950s. Exploring how this crime affected the lives of those who knew the family, this really is a compelling and heart-wrenching story.
Don’t forget to check out the reviews of other blogs on the tour and if you like what you’ve read about it, support the author by picking up a copy on Kindle or Paperback through Amazon UK.