During a holiday in eastern Austria I borrowed this novel and read it very nearly cover-to-cover. Having hardly read a book written post-1950 for months, I was utterly delighted.
Fry has that pure love of language that all the best authors possess. The texture of a phrase, the imagery from a sentence - his adoration of the possibilities, humour and wash of words is tangible on every page.
In The Hippopotamus Fry has created a great anti-hero, a rum, self-concerned miser who one can not fail to like completely. The plot moves fairly quickly and amusingly, but the (actually rather good) story is not the attraction of this book. As I have said, Fry's love of language is what makes this compelling reading. That Fry is fond of Oscar Wilde is rather blatant. Small, unimportant witticisms are thrown in at any convenient time and plot-twists abound. It's a ferrero rocher book: there's not an awful lot of point in it, but it is sublimely delicious when you treat yourself to it.
Having not read any of his other books other than his utterly excellent autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot, The Hippopotamus has that complimentary but not entirely welcome quality of making me not want to read anything else he has done, lest it not be of as good a quality. When I finished the book (I think I read it within twenty-four hours) I spent the next hour fondly remembering it. It's one of those books.
You can pick up a copy on here for a penny plus postage. You really might as well.