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The Stars' Tennis Balls Audio Cassette – Audiobook, Unabridged

3.9 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Audio Cassette, Audiobook, Unabridged
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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (28 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856865207
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856865203
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 5.5 x 14.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,893,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Ned Maddstone was born lucky; he is charming, handsome and on the school cricket team. In fact, Ned has everything most likely to grate with others less fortunate than himself, others who will do all they can to topple him from his elevated position.

Fry takes his title from Webster's play the Duchess of Malfi: "We are merely the star's tennis balls, struck and bandied which way may please them", and Ned finds out that while fate dealt him a kind hand at birth, his luck cannot hold indefinitely. Fry's novel, which he reads in its entirety for this audio book, plots a tragic cycle of blame, retribution and just plain bad luck. Yet as this pattern builds it quickly spirals out of control; running at ten hours long this is an ambitious novel and the strain shows with Fry, who like the story's villain Ashley, frequently relies on cliché to overcome difficulties.

However, if Fry's story is flawed, his reading is virtuosic. Unsurprisingly in a novel so concerned with power and status, accent is of key importance, with large sections of the novel consisting entirely of dialogue, yet Fry never resorts to caricature to differentiate between voices. Instead, he relies on precise observation of nuance and inflection creating a beautiful layering of different types of speech. It is this which most recommends Fry's reading--both as a valuable complement to the novel and as a performance in its own right. Those who know Fry best as a comic actor will not be disappointed by the sharp one-liners sprinkled throughout the piece, they may however be surprised by its darkness. --Anoushka Alexander

Review

"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" "From the Hardcover edition."

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Note: `Revenge' is the same novel as `The Stars' Tennis Balls' re-titled for the American market

You can't go wrong with Fry's novels: his plots are unpredictable, his writing style is witty, intelligent and captivating, and his (dark) humour is ever-present ... what more could you ask for?
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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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By A Customer on 6 May 2003
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
I certainly enjoyed this book; ah, how wonderful! - a tale of revenge - what a delicious theme! It is in fact a modern retelling of the ultimate revenge novel (and one of my all-time favourites), The Count of Monte Cristo. Many of the reviews I have read have commented on this and some have said that the plot was "stolen", but it is so close the actual that it would be foolish to deny that it is indeed The Count of Monte Cristo retold in a modern style. (And one reviewer rightly points out that a similar plot to that of Monte Cristo was around before the novel - incredibly, in real-life events.)

I was aware of this from the beginning, as my brother, who was reading it before me, commented that it was sad and read the part where Babe reveals to Ned that he has been imprisoned for 10 years. I then outlined the first part of Monte Cristo, and he said it sounded much the same. With this in mind whilst reading it, I marvelled at Fry's dedication to the original, preserving the characters and even adding some clever techniques - I felt especially smug when I worked out the pattern at the introduction of Paddy Leclare - and Portia! - ha ha - genius!

And this is where it loses a star. It is a well told, gripping story but it does not have the power of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fry is hurried, while Dumas takes his time and builds up suspense. The characters in The Stars' Tennis Balls and the incarceration that Ned suffers do not have the depth that is there in The Count of Monte Cristo and so do not fill the reader with the same lust for revenge and empathy for the protagonist.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
Having opened the book and settled down for a pleasurely evening read, I was instantly gripped by the flagrant use of the English language. Characterisation of Ned was fantastic, we all knew people like him, and the twisted Ashley, envious Rufus, and of course Gordon. Only upon the introduction of Oliver Delft and his mother (the wonderfully upper-class Phillipa)did recollections of the Count arise. And from here on, despite the wonderful, flowingly twisted, intelligence of the language, it was all downhill.
After this, I couldn't help thinking I was reading a text translated from another language. The same characters, with the same flaws as in Dumas' classic, existing in a time when the internet allows me to do as I do now...
And yet, the romance of Dumas' original was lacking. The original panache gone. Instead, a sterile tale told in sterile times, only the how different, and each villain's vice magnified a hundred-fold to remove any pity we may have had for their counter-parts in the original.
And as for the end? For Ned? The count we were happy for. Ned, we just pity him. My enjoyment of the book was overshadowed by this, maybe exaggerated in my mind, lack of originality on the part of Mr Fry. I wondered if he was having a laugh at the uneducated oiks we obviously are...
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