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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Genius!
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...
Published on 24 Nov 2001

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost Interesting...
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...
Published on 22 Oct 2008 by MJ Perry


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50 of 56 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a mixed bag, 24 April 2011
By 
John Davison - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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15 of 17 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A battle to read, 10 Dec 2013
By 
Lauren N. Davies (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
I desperately wanted to love this book, I love Fry and looked forward to reading it. Sadly, I found the humour boring and pretentious and never shocking. I couldn't warm to any of the characters: I agree with another reviewer ithat consequently I then just didnt care what happened to them. I found the italicised chapters, which punctuate the main chapters, almost unreadable. The only thing I liked about them was the idea of dehumanising characters and referring to them by their clothes.

Fry knows he's being pretentious and I'm sure this is supposed to be part of the charm of the book but it just left me bored and battling through chapters to get to the end and mainly to try and see the point of the awful italicised chapters. I lost the book about 2/3 of the way through and am not going to try and look for it.

Target market: horny, gay, teenage, public school boy borders with excellent vocabularies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great, 2 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
I am a big fan of Fry, the man is almost a nation institution now. I had read his biography last year, and though that it was great.

However, this book, I just could not get on with. I couldn't get the characters, the plot was not twisted, it was muddled, and it took 200 pages or so for me to begin to enjoy it.

I think that it was supposed to full of erudite wit and humour, but it just washed over me.
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Liar, Stephen Fry - I would be lying if I said I enjoyed this, 31 Aug 2010
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
Having enjoyed the output of Stephen Fry in all his other incarnations I felt it was time to finally see what he is like as a novelist. I really wanted to like this book, but for the first time he has struck a bit of a sour note with me.

The book centres around that great British institution, the public school. It tells the story of an inmate, Adrian Healey as he passes through school, dealing with some big stuff along the way, then his passage through University and beyond.

Parts of the book seem based on Fry's own experiences, and he brings the various institutions, and the circumstances of the poor unfortunates trapped within, to life very well. The plot is interesting enough, if a little farfetched at times. So why did I not enjoy this?

There are three main reasons. Firstly, never having had the misfortune of going to a public school (a secondary modern followed by a red brick uni for me, and proud of it) I have no frame of reference for the situations being described. The whole world is alien to me, and as well described as it is I still find it incomprehensible.

Secondly there are the characters. They are all various shades of obnoxious, and all of them are people that I would usually cross the street to avoid - especially the central protagonist. I find reading a book very heavy going when the main star is so unlikeable.

Thirdly is the `humour' and crudity. The humour is actually thinly sprinkled through the book, it is nowhere near as hilarious as others seem to make out. And I am sorry, but I just did not `get' much of it, and found too many passages to be both unnecessary to the book and really cringemaking when read.

It was not an enjoyable read, it did not entertain me and it is not a book I can say I will ever re-read. These are three qualities I usually look for in a recreational read, so this gets a low score from me.

These criticisms are personal to me, I can understand that people may identify with the characters and situations, and thus find more to enjoy in this book. After all, there is some good writing on show here, and some interesting ideas, as I mentioned earlier. But from me, its two stars only I am afraid.
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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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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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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hysterically hilarous, 24 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Liar (Paperback)
Stephen Fry's first novel is absolutely brilliant and there are laughs and surprises on virtually every page. The title character contains more of a hint of the author himself particularly if you have read Fry's autobiography. It will keep you guessing throughout and I defy anyone who does not laugh out loud at least twenty times while reading it. As well as being funny it is also delicately touching; in short it is amazing
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The Liar
The Liar by Stephen Fry (Paperback - 5 Aug 2004)
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