The Birthday Party

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Pub Date 18 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 07 Feb 2023

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Description

Buried deep in rural France, little remains of the isolated hamlet of the Three Lone Girls, save a few houses and a curiously assembled quartet: Patrice Bergogne, inheritor of his family’s farm; his wife, Marion; their daughter, Ida; and their neighbour, Christine, an artist. While Patrice plans a surprise for his wife’s fortieth birthday, inexplicable events start to disrupt the hamlet’s quiet existence: anonymous, menacing letters, an unfamiliar car rolling up the driveway. And as night falls, strangers stalk the houses, unleashing a nightmarish chain of events. 

    Told in rhythmic, propulsive prose that weaves seamlessly from one consciousness to the next over the course of a day, Laurent Mauvignier’s The Birthday Party is a deft unravelling of the stories we hide from others and from ourselves, a gripping tale of the violent irruptions of the past into the present, written by a major contemporary French writer.


For fans of: Chris Power's A Lonely Man, Fernanda Melchor's Paradais and Michael Haneke's Funny Games.

Buried deep in rural France, little remains of the isolated hamlet of the Three Lone Girls, save a few houses and a curiously assembled quartet: Patrice Bergogne, inheritor of his family’s farm; his...


Advance Praise

‘One of France’s most talented writers.’

France Today


‘It is truly a great book: enthralling, impressive and fascinating in its literary methods.... I was totally captivated by its sentences that build up pleasure, terror and anxiety, their long, slow rhythms that create its dynamic and tension just as much as the situation itself.’ 

— Jean-Claude Raspiengeas, Le Masque et la Plume


‘What matters, as always in Mauvignier’s work, is giving a voice to the voiceless, the worthless, the unloved, the humiliated, even if this is done with unprecedented violence. For on this isolated farm where the drama is played out, the aggressors and the victims are more alike than we might think. All of them settle their scores with a destiny that has wronged them.’

— Jérôme Garcin, BibliObs


‘[I]t is Mauvignier’s writing, his undulating sentences, that makes this novel an exceptional work, and elevates this forgotten France to the rank of literary subject.’

— Sylvie Tanette, Les Inrockuptibles


‘Each of his books produce the same shock; the shock of the magnificence of his language, which, like a tidal wave, slices its sentences in the middle of a line, then lets them crash onto the page; the shock of the force of his characters torn apart by trauma, dragged into a rush of events beyond their control ... The Birthday Party is a thriller about the pretenses that coat every life.’

— Martine Landrot, Télérama

‘One of France’s most talented writers.’

France Today


‘It is truly a great book: enthralling, impressive and fascinating in its literary methods.... I was totally captivated by its sentences that...


Available Editions

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ISBN 9781804270226
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Well, let's just say that if I were nail-biter, all ten fingers would be down to the quick!

Mauvignier has done something pleasingly adroit here: he's taken the well-worn trope of the scary house invasion by hostile strangers and given it a dark literary spin purely through the stylistics of his writing.

What I mean is that the plot has been done countless times before, the characters are straight out of the stock-cupboard - and even the scenes are ones we've all known forever.

But the writing creates a glorious and productive tension between the clichés of content and the mode of telling. Using a close 3rd person which jumps into the consciousness of various characters and by eschewing the use of speech marks, this offers up an intense literary experience that puts us <i>there</i> experiencing the terror, the frightening brutality and psychopathy from both the inside and outside. I was thinking of a writer like [author:Javier Marías|71956] with his winding clauses and forensic attention to details which, in a less accomplished hand, could be construed as filler but which, mysteriously, just winds the tension up to screaming level.

Personally, I felt that this was too long at around 500 pages and if I were the editor, I'd have cut the Christine story which can detract from what's going on in the main house. It's the sort of book that would benefit from being short enough to read in one or two sittings, and that shortening would allow us to watch, horror-struck, fingers over eyes and mouth, as all the things we expect come to fruition. And how clever that this doesn't try to shove in a twist or anything cheap - what Mauvignier adds to an overworked trope isn't an extension of plot - he plays that through without deviating from the script - but by wrapping it up in a literary style that proves itself as adept at ramping up the intensity as anything by more commercial writers.

I'd say this is to the 'home invasion' story what Marias is to the spy novel.

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Buried deep in rural France, little remains of the isolated hamlet of the Three Lone Girls, save a few houses and a curiously assembled quartet: Patrice Bergogne, inheritor of his family’s farm; his wife, Marion; their daughter, Ida; and their neighbour, Christine, an artist. While Patrice plans a surprise for his wife’s fortieth birthday, inexplicable events start to disrupt the hamlet’s quiet existence: anonymous, menacing letters, an unfamiliar car rolling up the driveway. And as night falls, strangers stalk the houses, unleashing a nightmarish chain of events.
  Told in rhythmic, propulsive prose that weaves seamlessly from one consciousness to the next over the course of a day, Laurent Mauvignier’s The Birthday Party is a deft unravelling of the stories we hide from others and from ourselves, a gripping tale of the violent irruptions of the past into the present, written by a major contemporary French writer.
Really enjoyable read and totally recommend
Thank you NetGalley and Fitzcarraldo Editions
I just reviewed The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier. tr. by Daniel Levin Becker. #TheBirthdayParty #NetGalley

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It's hard to know where to begin with this novel - and I say that as a positive point, because the prose style used in this novel is at once hypnotic and elegant, with sentences that seems to go on for the whole page. I read the English translation and wondered whether the French version is the same, and whose version of the story I was actually reading: the original writer's or the translators. Either way, the story is a suspenseful one, and if the length of the sentences and depth of detail is a narrative strategy to enhance the tension, well, it worked. Running through the plot are the elements of uncanny fiction: an isolated place, uninhabited houses, unrequited love, the receiving of unpleasant, anonymous letters, secrets. All of which are the worthy components of the horror genre. But this is not a horror story, these elements are used to maintain the tension between the characters, which heightens as a birthday party is organised, only for things to go from bad to worse. No spoilers.

Highly, highly recommended, and my thanks to the publishers, who consistently publish beautiful, clever and compelling novels, and to NetGalley for the ARC.

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What a ride. A book that kept me on the edge, turning pages as fast as I could and always wondering what was goind to happen.
There's a sense of dread and doom even when the setting seems so idillyc.
Excellent storytelling, plot and character development.
The first I read by this author but not the last one.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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Mauvignier writes ferociously, provocatively, and with tenacity. It’s riveting stuff. My first by him, and I’ve become an instant fan. I will certainly check out his other (translated) works.

He masterfully draws the reader into a parochial French hamlet - an unremarkable world - sleepy and soporific. We almost taste the boredom and sense of nothingness. Nothing ever changes. Nothing dramatic ever happens.

And then he hits us with a hammer blow: sleepy rural charm is replaced by a high-octane thriller to rival any set in the heart of Paris.

My only criticism is that I found the book too long at 500 pages, diluting the tension slightly.

My thanks to Fitzcarraldo Editions and NetGalley for granting this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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