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Billy Liar: A play in three acts (Plays series) Unknown Binding – 1961

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Evans Bros (1961)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0000CL72N
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,716,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Bentley is Senior Lecturer in English literature at Keele University in the UK. His main research interests are in post-1945 British fiction and literary and cultural theory. He is author of Radical Fictions: The English Novel in the 1950s (Peter Lang, 2007) and Contemporary British Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2008), and editor of British Fiction of the 1990s (Routledge, 2005). He has published journal articles and book chapters on Julian Barnes, Zadie Smith, Doris Lessing, Colin MacInnes, Sam Selvon and the representation of youth in British New Left writing. He is currently working on two monographs: one on Martin Amis for the Writers and Their Work series, and one on the representation of youth subcultures in post-war British fiction.

Product Description


* Flawless...this reading of Waterhouse's witty and compassionate writing has the edge even on the iconic 1963 film. Independent on Sunday * the novel, Simm sparkles in surprising ways. Time Out --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Keith Waterhouse (1929-2009) was a novelist, columnist, and TV writer whose "Billy Liar" was adapted for film and won six BAFTA nominations. John Simm is an actor who is known for his roles as The Master on "Doctor Who" and Sam Tyler on "Life On Mars." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
LYING in bed, I abandoned the facts again and was back in Ambrosia. Read the first page
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 May 2004
Format: Paperback
Still fresh after 45 years, Waterhouse's novel about a compulsive liar who can't handle reality is funny, sweet, and heartbreakingly sad. Set at the tail end of 1950s, the story is told by Billy Fisher, who lives with his parents in the fictional Yorkshire town of Stradhoughton. Billy can't cope with his tedious clerking job at a local funeral parlor, living at home, or really anything about his life, and so, spends a great deal of time escaping into fantasy world in his head called Ambrosia. When he's not imagining life as prime minister of his make-believe country, he's spinning mostly purposeless lies to almost everyone he meets. Sometimes he's lying to cover up real misdeeds, such as his smalltime embezzling, other times, his lies are completely pointless, such as telling a friend's mother about his fictional sister.
At first, his carefree, devil-may-care insouciance is amusing and the reader is drawn into Billy's bizarre self-vision as lively raconteur and comic wit. However, as the story progresses, he becomes a more troublesome figure. He's engaged to two different girls, and apparently in love with a third. More problematically, he has no emotional connection to realityóevery episode in his life takes on the aspect of a sketch or scene in which he struggles to determine what role to play, what accent to adopt, or what pose to strike. It becomes heartbreaking to witness Billy's belief that he's smarter than everyone around him and destined for great things, when everyone else can see right through his poses and tired routines. (It'd be interesting to know what a psychiatrist's diagnosis of Billy would be.) As the lies pile up, Billy finds himself painted into a corner from which only drastic action will free him.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Oct 1999
Format: Paperback
Written in the first person, Billy Liar is a tale of pure escapism. Billy Fisher - a child in an adults body - is torn between his daydreams in his make believe nation of Ambrosia - and the harsh realities of life in a non-descript Yorkshire town of the 1950's. His inability to apply himself to all those things his peers expect of him, and to adherr to the tasteless lifestyle that those around him take for granted, force him to invent, and emerse himself in, his own realities to rationalise away the problems and obstacles he faces in life - his best weapon in this pursuit being his lies. Pretty soon he becomes tangled in the ever spiralling webs of deceit he spins to maintain three engagements, an illusory brother and sister, and mounting problems at Shadrack and Duxbury funeral homes his place of work and constant source of unease. Billy's descriptions of the everyday people around him and their everday lives are razor sharp - not least of all his parents and grandmother so predictable in their breakfast table conversation that those scenes appear to Billy as perverse scethches from a bad soap opera, painfully drawn out through the same dialogues each morning. Billy is a hypochondriac and obsessive, yet eternally optimistic without good cause and darkly comic in his appraisal of the world around him and its inhabitants. This is the kind of book you'll either love or hate depending on whether there is any Billy Liar in you, and whether you ever escape to your own Ambrosia.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Curran on 19 July 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this first when I was about thirteen and loved it although at the time I didn't really appreciate just how bitter sweet this book really is. It's packed with laugh aloud moments and I adored his descriptions of his parents, particularly his mother's 'motherisms' Coming back to it as an adult it is still very, very funny but much more poignant with the benefit of a bit of wisdom and hindsight. There is a sequel Billy Liar On The Moon but it lacks the innocence of the original. Billy Liar is also a great stage play and fab 1960's film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Willis on 30 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback
Billy is a big liar whose pants are on fire. Sometimes he lies to get himself out of trouble but most of the time he does it for no reason at all. He tells his best friends mother that he has a sister called Sheila(he doesn't) he embellishes it by giving Sheila a husband Eric. Sheila and Eric have two children, one of whom was born with a twisted foot which was thankfully operated on by a Dr Ubu in Leeds. Billy's friends mother is now giving Billy toys to give to these fictitious children.

Billy is a teenager stuck in a fictional northern English town, he hates his life and when he isn't dreaming of going to London he spends his time escaping into a fantasy world in his head called Ambrosia where he is Prime Minister.

At first Billy's antics are amusing but as the book goes on it is apparent that although Billy believes he is smarter than everyone else, the fact is that everyone sees right through him, he is not always a nice person either. The whole tale climaxes at the end when he is standing on a platform deciding whether to leave for the ever elusive London or stay and confront his problems. That's not a spoiler, the spoiler would be telling you his final decision.

This book is often funny and its the comic elements that will likely stay with me, its an original book and Billy is a great, complicated character. Worth reading.

On a final note, considering it was published in the 1950s its amazing to see how little teenagers have changed,

'You decided to get up, then,' my Mother said, slipping easily into he second series of conversations of the day. My stock replies were 'Yes', 'No, I'm still in bed', and a snarled 'What does it look like?' according to my mood. Today I chose 'Yes' and sat down to my boiled egg, stone cold as threatened.
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