Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Liar - Stephen Fry

Whilst I was on my break from blogging I managed finally to read some of the old timers of my TBR pile, one of them was The Liar by Stephen Fry. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first and became a little confused as the story jumped backwards and forwards through time, but, it didn't take me long to be completely absorbed in this wonderfully witty and amusing tale of people who keep secrets and tell lies.

Adrian Healey is the central character in this story and he is witty, bright, intellectual, snobbish and quite daring. The first time we meet Adrian it is clear he is not like other boys at his school:

"Adrian checked the orchid at his buttonhole, the spats at his feet, gave the lavender gloves a twitch, smoothed down his waistcoat, tucked the ebony Malacca-cane under his arm, swallowed twice and pushed open the changing room doors.

'Ah, my dears,' he cried. Congratulations! Congratulations to you all! A triumph, an absolute triumph!'

'Well, what the fucks he wearing now?' they snorted from the steamy end of the room.

'You're and idiot and an arse, Healey.'

Burkiss threw a flannel onto the shiny top hat. Adrian reached up and took it between his forefinger and thumb.

'If there is the slightest possibility, Burkiss, that this flannel has absorbed any of the juices that leak from within you, that it has mopped up a single droplet of your pubescent greases, that it has tickled and frotted even one of the hideously mired corners of your disgusting body then I shall have a spasm. I'm sorry but I shall.'

In spite of himself, Cartwright smiled............."

And so I was hooked. I had the most vivid picture of the scene and particularly of Adrian Healey in my mind from this moment, and as the story unfolds, the picture becomes more and more colourful.

Adrian proves to be a total liar and looks on the world as his play ground. The book charts Adrian's life through the latter part of public school, during a time when he becomes a runaway and through his university years. He is cool, courageous, rebellious and always in trouble of one kind or another, particularly with the police, various school masters and his parents. Nobody can see through Adrian until he meets Professor Trefusis, who is a master at St Matthew's College, Cambridge where Adrian is reading Philology under his watchful eye. The story turns into a romp of the most extraordinary kind taking in Piccadilly rent-boys, Dicken's lost pornographic novel Peter Flowerbucke and an international espionage conspiracy.

I cannot remember when I last enjoyed a book so thoroughly and laughed out loud so many times. It is an astonishing achievement of comedic writing and now I am on a quest to seek out more of Stephen Fry's books. The only thing I would caution against is that some of the language and some of the descriptions of sexual encounters contained in the story (all of which add to the landscape of the portrait being painted, by the way) might be shocking to more sensitive readers, so, if you are in this group perhaps this is not the book for you.

It was another of those books I did not want to end. It is not the kind of book I would normally choose to read but I do adore Stephen Fry and so when I saw it in the bookshop I picked it up. Then as it been sitting so long on my TBR pile, I thought I should give it a try and I'm so glad I did. Just think, I may not have read it at all, which would have been a terrible loss for me.

Have you read anything by Stephen Fry?

Have you ever picked up a book you would not normally select and loved it so much you follow it's trail?


  1. I haven't read anything by Stephen Fry, but I really love him on television so have no idea why I haven't. You make this book sound really good - I'll keep an eye out for a copy!

  2. It was an absolute delight to read this book and yet it was not something I would have picked up had it not been written by Stephen Fry. I will be interested to hear what you think about it if you do find a copy, Jackie, it is a quick read and oh so amusing.

  3. Sounds like you really enjoyed this! I haven't read anything by him but my husband has read a couple and really enjoyed them!

  4. It really was a laugh out loud read and cheered me up greatly, Dot. Stephen Fry is such an eloquent writer and the images he creates with words in this book is amazing. I have just found another one of his, 'Making History' and can't wait to read it.