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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a mixed bag
When I was trying to write a novel ten years ago I thought it was immensely cute and interesting to refer to characters obliquely, rather than explaining clearly who and what I was talking about. Stephen Fry does this throughout The Liar in the italicised accounts of the hero and his mentor on a spying adventure. In fact it is not interesting - it merely confuses and...
Published on 24 April 2011 by John Davison

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but could have done with a better plot
In a well-crafted story, the threads are carefully laid out as the chapters go by, and the reader wonders how on earth they can be drawn together. At the climax of the book, the author deftly ties in one after another, and looking back from the viewpoint at the end of the book, the reader can see how each one had its necessary place in the complete tapestry and mutters,...
Published on 27 April 2009 by P. M. Fernandez


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a mixed bag, 24 April 2011
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
When I was trying to write a novel ten years ago I thought it was immensely cute and interesting to refer to characters obliquely, rather than explaining clearly who and what I was talking about. Stephen Fry does this throughout The Liar in the italicised accounts of the hero and his mentor on a spying adventure. In fact it is not interesting - it merely confuses and irritates.

Against this one has to place the magnificent main opening chapter set in Adrian's public school. An adolescent crush has never been expressed in more fabulously funny purple prose:

"Cartwright of the sapphire eyes and golden hair, Cartwright of the Limbs and Lips: he was Petrarch's Laura, Milton's Lycidas, Catullus's Lesbia, Tennyson's Hallam, Shakespeare's fair boy and dark lady, the moon's Endymion. Cartwright was Garbo's salary, the National Gallery, he was cellophane: he was the tender trap, the blank unholy surprise of it all and the bright golden haze on the meadow: he was honey-honey, sugar-sugar, chirpy chirpy cheep-cheep and his baby-love: the voice of the turtle could be heard in the land, there were angels dining at the Ritz and a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square."

The novel then hops around between distant past and more recent past, with varying degrees of success.

If only Stephen Fry had stuck to school boys and rent boys, the subjects about which he writes most convincingly, he could have out-Waughed Evelyn Waugh.
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Genius!, 24 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
Having thoroughly enjoyed Stephen Fry's autobiography, "Moab is my Washpot", I decided to read "The Liar", his first novel, which was written before "Moab". I'm glad I read the books in that order, as many of the events in "The Liar" are taken from Fry's own public school experiences. I had a clearer understanding of situations and characters in "The Liar" because they identified strongly with events that had taken place in Fry's life. I found this book very funny, 100% due to the author's unimitable, very wry and witty "public school" style of writing. His descriptions of events and types of people are so 'spot-on', you can't help but laugh and think how accurate it all is. Great stuff! If this is Stephen Fry, then I'm hooked!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but could have done with a better plot, 27 April 2009
By 
P. M. Fernandez "exilefromgroggs" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
In a well-crafted story, the threads are carefully laid out as the chapters go by, and the reader wonders how on earth they can be drawn together. At the climax of the book, the author deftly ties in one after another, and looking back from the viewpoint at the end of the book, the reader can see how each one had its necessary place in the complete tapestry and mutters, sotto voce, "Of course! How could it have been otherwise?"

This is a less well-crafted story, in my opinion. The threads are laid out - each charming and tantalising - and then in the last two chapters, a handful of the most promising are hastily tangled together, with a couple of new ones thrown in for good measure. And at the end, I was left muttering, "Oh. Is that it, then?"

That's not to say that the writing isn't of a high quality. Stephen Fry is a polymath and a genius - as would have been known by any followers of the now ancient "Fry and Laurie", even before the advent of QI. His writing reflects his deep wells of knowledge, and does an excellent job of capturing the flavour of a particular strand of public school/Cambridge character. I blush as I read back my own lines written in response to his book. And though I come from a very different position from Fry philosophically, he is somebody I like and respect.

I wasn't particularly shocked by the explicit language and sexual references, though I suspect the blatant advertising of gay sexuality by a public figure may well be part of the reason for the book's widespread critical approval - after all, who within the media would want to appear to react against such a book?

But despite the 4-5 star writing, my frustration with the plot left me disappointed. The book is fine as a comic novel (which to be fair may have been all that was intended) but came close, and then fell short, of being much more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Truth Hurts, 5 May 2009
By 
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
Stephen Fry's `The Liar' is a difficult book to get a handle on and it's pretty clear that this is done on purpose by the author - what is truth and what is a lie? The book itself is intelligent and well written as you would expect from someone like Fry. However, intelligence can easily go over some people's heads. In the case of `The Liar' some of the elements of the book are lost in the non linear format. The book is told during the main character's, Adrian Healey, present and various moments in his past. Once you get used to the chapters moving around in time things do start to be clear, unfortunately, this may come too late for some people.

Healey is not a particularly likable character as he is a compulsive liar, but I found him interesting to read about. The book seems to move from an apparent autobiographical style to a more fictional one. The area that may put off most people is Fry's description of Healey school days at an all boys boarding school. Fry is not a man to shy away from the sexualisation of youth and he does not here. The book is quite lurid, but I imagine anyone attempting to read a book by Fry would already be prepared for this. Overall, I found the book interesting and funny in moments. The irregular narrative structure does work, however it fails to mask the fact that the actual story itself is not that good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curate's Egg, 26 July 2012
By 
C. E. Utley "Charles Utley" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Liar (Kindle Edition)
The good parts are very good. But the bad parts are really rather horrid. The reader should persevere. Most of the disagreeable bits are early in the book. As I read it on Kindle I can tell you that by 35% I was tempted to give up, but by about 45% I was beginning to enjoy it, and it got better and better from then on.

Mr Fry's sense of humour (at least in the early stages of this novel) is that of a particularly disgusting adolescent schoolboy. The revolting descriptions of mutual masturbation etc will no doubt appeal to some, but most will find them a big turn off. One also fears, until about half way through, that we are expected to admire the grossly superficial "intelligence" of the hero. But it really is worth ploughing on. Even the humour improves (rather dramatically).

My guess is that Mr Fry wrote the first third of the book when he was about sixteen (and probably a rather nasty youth). He then put it aside for ten or so years. I think it was a mistake, when he resumed, that he didn't re-write what he had already written. If he had done so, this could have been a minor classic. As it is, the novel will be read for a few years (because its author is a "celebrity") but will then be forgotten.

Charles
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weird definitely weird, 14 April 2008
By 
Ed Taylor (Lancashire England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
After reading this book I felt confused. Yes it was funny in places and Mr Fry's literary style and prowess are undoubted. Why then can't he write a novel that coherently follows a storyline instead of flitting about like a fly on the proverbial griddle. It seems like he has written down all the points he wants to get across then got them to the publishers without sorting them into order as he was running out of time.
If this is his life story as some seem to suspect no wonder he is depressed. I was after reading it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excessive, 19 Jun. 2012
By 
Dr. Michael J. Atkins (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Liar (Audio CD)
I bought this to absorb some long car journeys. I find his voice extremely relaxing whilst driving.

He is without doubt a talented writer, and this book is extremely clever. But I have to liken it to a fruitcake with too much fruit. It is SO clever and tries to be SO witty that it goes too far.

It appears desperate to interpose so many allusions, metaphors, historical references, and intellectually neat asides that it collides with itself as a literary work. The less is the more.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost Interesting..., 22 Oct. 2008
By 
MJ Perry (U.K) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
I should preface this by saying 'I love Stephen Fry.' Despite being a heterosexual male, I would quite happily marry him just so I could enjoy a lifetime of his mild manners and witty repartees.

This being said, since I discovered Amazon's 'review' function I've tried to dissect books as objectively as possible. Therefore, I have to confess that The Liar was slightly disappointing for me.

Don't get me wrong: It's fantastically written. Fry's mastery of the language is quite simply art in motion, and the insight the work provides into the man himself is fascinating.

However... it's not very good, really.

I'm all for unconventional plot devices and disregarding standard narrative flow, but Fry's attempts at a disjointed style are immensely unsatisfying. Jumping between past and present interrupts the characters' natural development, and makes the story hard to follow. It also makes it hard to keep track of the sheer number of characters that Fry throws in.

Another issue I have is that Fry doesn't utilise his protaganist's compulsive lying tendencies enough. The parts where the character is lying - and is revealed to be as such at the end - are removed from the plot, so when his falsehoods are later revealed it is a massive anti-climax, as they have no bearing on what has actually occured during the novel.

Overall, I feel that this is a weak first attempt. It is certainly worth reading, but Fry has written far superior works to this. Therefore, I can't really recommend it, but will instead advise purchasing 'Moab is my Washpot', which is in essence a more impressive version of this. It also has the advantage of being a true autobiography, instead of vaguely wielding the autobiographical elements that make The Liar appealing. Or, if you'd rather read Fry's best fictional work, go for The Hippopotamus: although a strong stomach is required to get through it.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FISH TO FRY, 1 July 2007
By 
Lee Hendricks "Jimmi" (Ascot, Berkshire UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
When John Prescott surfaced on the political scene as Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine commented on his lack of social grace saying, "Language is not his first language." The same cannot be said of Stephen Fry. He demonstrates a sculptor's skill in carving each sentence delicately.

Delightfully easy to read and entertaining, the story mixes fiction with fact as a young Adrian Healey (presumably Stephen's alter ego) stumbles through life as a Cambridge undergraduate. Not content with simply reading for his degree in the conventional sense, Adrian attempts to demonstrate his literary brilliance by forging an early work from Charles Dickens. His deceit fools many a Cambridge Don and Adrian's prank becomes the substance of legend.

The book provides a frank and often shocking look into university life, covering fagging, homosexuality, suicide and Piccadilly rent boys. Designed more to entertain than to shock, the book will appeal to fans of Fry, those wishing to know more about university life in early 1970's England, and all who enjoy a riotous good read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Fry – The Liar | Review, 8 Jun. 2014
By 
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
The Liar is Stephen Fry’s first novel, and while it’s not as good as some of his later work, it is a good start and it shows some of his later promise. In many ways, it’s autobiographical too – it tells the story of a lying public schoolboy, and it’s notable for containing his typical wit and wisdom and for marking Fry’s first flutter in to the world of being a published author.

Unfortunately, it’s just not a strong novel – it’s typical of a debutante, and even Fry’s evocations of homosexuality feel a little stilted, almost as though they were included just for the sake of it. There’s also the protagonist’s irritating habit of lying all of the time, a habit which actually affects the narrative – some of the chapters are later revealed to be fictional, created by the narrator to throw the reader off course. I mean, it’s a fictional novel to begin with – Fry is dealing with meta-fiction, which is a huge risk because it doesn’t always work.

Ultimately, though, the characterisation is pretty good and Fry’s depiction of people and places is good but not great, a mere shadow of what was to come in his later work. As a whole, his work isn’t for everyone – The Liar isn’t his best, so start with Making History or Moab is my Washpot. If you’ve read the rest of his work and you enjoyed it, then move on to The Liar while you wait for him to release his next one. Sorry, Stephen – it’s just not that good!
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The Liar
The Liar by Stephen Fry (Paperback - 5 Aug. 2004)
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