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The Stars' Tennis Balls [Hardcover]

Stephen Fry
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Sep 2000
The story of a very nice young man called Ned Maddstone who, 20 years after being seized outside a Knightsbridge language college and thrown into solitary confinement as a political prisoner, returns to London implacably focused upon revenge.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (28 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091801516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091801519
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 516,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Fry is one of Britain's national treasures and his television appearances include 'A Bit Of Fry and Laurie', 'Jeeves and Wooster', 'Blackadder', 'QI' and 'Kingdom'. His film roles include 'Peter's Friends' and 'Wilde'; and in the realm of television, the Emmy-award-winning 'The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive'. As a writer, he best known for his novel The Liar as well as his acclaimed autobiography Moab Is My Washpot, and his is the famous voice of the Harry Potter audio books.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Ned Maddstone has it all. He's handsome and talented; he has the love of a beautiful woman and in 1980, he stands at the brink of a glittering future. He rounds off an outstanding public school career with a sailing trip to Scotland, which is where his fortunes enter a terrifying tailspin. Determined to honour the dying wish of his sailing instructor, Ned returns to London, where the schemes of jealous classmates catapult him into a 10-year nightmare. Confined to a solitary Hell, believed dead by all those who loved him, Ned transforms from a terminally nice guy into a creature bent on revenge, a revenge both satisfying and apocalyptic.

Few writers can deliver so much in one package, but here Stephen Fry combines a riotous satire of the privileged classes with elements of the darkest thrillers. While the plot bounces from the sublime to the surreal, his characters remain acutely real. Ned's classmates, slow-witted hedonist Rufus Cade, and the Machiavellian climber Ashley Barson-Garland--who is aroused by the sight of straw boaters--are masterful creations. This novel has nothing to do with tennis, and everything to do with the cruel logic of Fate. Game, set and match to Mr Fry. - - Matthew Baylis


"The Stephenesque ... a national as well as a family treasure." -- "Guardian" "It is impossible to be unimpressed by Stephen Fry's writing." -- "Scotland on Sunday" "No one can make you feel quite like Stephen Fry can." --"Time Out" "Stephen Fry is one of the great originals." -- "Financial Times"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fry will engage, shock and enthrall 11 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette
If you are going to buy this wonderful book, I urge you to buy it in cassette form. It is a pleasure just to listen to Fry's voice and he is perfect at portraying such upper-middle class characters with feeling and humour. Star's Tennis Balls is a captivating tale of Ned, caught in an entangled web of misery as the result of a practical joke by the Machiavellian Ashley, a character the listener will instantly loathe. Fry's linguistic skill makes this book all the more dark and disturbing and I couldn't switch the tape player off as I quickly sympathised with Ned, his situation both frustrating and depressing. It is a tale of one who has it all which inevitably never lasts, Fry's unique wit and wordplay enthralling the listener into his fictional world. It is also the complete unabridged version so I did not feel that I was missing out on anything by not purchasing the book. Overall, a macabre, absorbing tale which Fry reads with all his usual passion and intelligence. Already a firm favourite of mine.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The stars' tennis balls 6 May 2003
By A Customer
This was my first attempt at reading a book by Stephen Fry although he already has converts in all my family, and I'm now seriously concerned it might have spoilt me for any other book. It is a gripping, engaging, erudite book from cover to cover and I couldn't put it down. Yes Ned turns from pathetic wimp to revenging angel, but who wouldn't under the circumstances ? And Neds' final action tells of his painful ending. Big words and all I couldn't put it down; I found it one of the most complete stories I've ever read. Bravo.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Along with other reviewers I foind this to be a mixed Fry. The literariness where it showed was true to form and the way Fry writes to teach us about words and history without patronising us sparkles. The characters were well formed and believable with the exception of latter day Ned. The hellish brutality of the torture (and "therapy" scenes) was extremely well written and worryingly good and the sequences of revenges I found to be utterly absorbing.
So where are my gripes? The first is the relative weighting. At least half the book is spent on the time in the treatment clinic as indeed it should, covering such a long period of time. However the passage of time doesn't match up. I felt he is there for less than the actual elapsed time. Then there is the issue about whether, after such treatment, Ned ("Thomas" by now) is actually sharp enough to take on the wisdom in Babe's masterclasses, or be as resourceful duing the escape from the sanitarium. And this spills into the final theme of the revenge planning. I never sensed that Ned ("Simon" at this stage) was actually bright or cunning enough to run the CotterDotCom business or have planned so meticulously the downfall of his tormentors, especially having missed so much of "normal" life and the development of the e-economy. So as much as I found the last scenes utterly page turning in their own right, they were ultimately based on some shakey character developments to my mind.
Other reviewers have thought this to be one of the less successful Fry works and a departure from his familiar territory. I guess I tend to think likewise, but it is still a rivertng read. And compared to so much dross that is out there, that's no bad thing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Is this book very very clever, or is it trying to make us think we are clever? There are a lot of distinct literary balls lobbed during this novel. Every major writing style, ditto. The school boy bit mimics the style of novels aimed at kids during a certain period; the characteristation of the hero (its the only word that applies) pre-island, is one dimensional, as though written by Adrian Mole. Even the source material (Othello, the Count) reminds me of what I read at that age. This is deliberate; Fry even lists the source material by name, hinting that he is up to something bigger. But what? We are gieven a clue in the desciption of the inmates angered by the invisible playing board. In this scene, the clever prisoner plays a mind game which maddens the mad. is Mr. Fry playing clever tennis with his readers? The second half of the book, right down to the German, Dutch and Swiss locations is straight spy thriller stuff. And the end? Jeffrey Archer meets John Webster? Is this post post-modernism? Is it pretend post-modernism? Or is the whole smoregesboard simply playing with post-modernism, as does with so many other genres? Its the best Stephen Fry book by far, a Gullivers Travels for the third millennium. Hold onto your first editions...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I like my revenge sweet, not sour, thanks 6 Mar 2002
By A Customer
The beginning of this book grabs the reader's attention; Fry is a witty and a talented writer and the opening to this novel drew me in. I enjoyed the book immensely until Ned left the asylum, and was rooting for him all the way - then suddenly, the tone of the book changed, and became much darker. Not necessarily a bad thing; but here, it doesn't work.
Somehow, though I wanted Ned to get some kind of revenge for what happened, the latter part of the book felt overdone and tasteless, and I didn't really enjoy reading it. I would be tempted to say Fry was being brave in departing from the earlier tone and from his Mr Nice Guy image in general, but then the derivative nature of what ensues (noted by other reviewers on this site) prevents me from doing this.
I really wanted to like this book but I couldn't reconcile myself to the sheer nastiness of its ending. Perhaps it's unfair on Fry in the end - from a writer like Iain Banks the denouement might feel just right. Perhaps Fry was trying to get away from how he and his writing is perceived, but somehow it feels like he has missed the target with this one, rather than been misunderstood.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Moral compass?
Most will have picked up by now that revenge has a fair part to play in this book; no more spoilers here. Read more
Published 7 months ago by I. Henson
3.0 out of 5 stars Game,Set Match?
Read this for my book group. It is reasonably well written but you have to suspend reality as the plot and characters are a bit predictable. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Patricia Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it.
I have enjoyed all of Stephen's works of fiction (Making History, The Liar etc) but would probably say that this one tops the lot. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Scott Sanders
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow build. Original.
Difficult to digest the transformation of the character who seems to become Simon about half way through but otherwise an entertaining read and a page turner if you want a read... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Supernova42
5.0 out of 5 stars good but
Wasn't keen on the ending. I won't ruin it but I was absolutely hooked on this book and just the thought the ending could have been better but each to their own I guess.
Published 14 months ago by T. L. Lucas
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle witty humour
Reading Stephen Fry's funny books is a warm and wonderful way to spend some leisure time. He reaches out and tickles my ribs every time.
Published 16 months ago by Psychobabble
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite heavy
I have enjoyed Stephens books before and found this to be well written but I was a bit disappointed by the ending - which I don't want to spoil for anyone, the content was a bit... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Charlotte Perry
5.0 out of 5 stars Dancing monkeys
Great brilliant unbelievable cool qi iq Alan Davies Stephen fry great book hbhbhvgfcn j j vg s. whine s hub jw jan. igu
Published 20 months ago by Diarmaid Doherty
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it.
I had no real expectations other than I've always enjoyed reading Stephen Fry's other fiction. I certainly wasn't let down and I think this is my favourite book of his. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Titchf34
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense injustice paves the way for hugely gratifying plan of...
Oh how I loved this book. So intensely bittersweet. A plan of masterful vengeance which is metered out to the writhing, squirming wretches who so richly deserved such merciless... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Bunty
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