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on 6 June 2003
A wonderfully endearing book by a very likeable man. I was hooked from the beginning and although it does get a little mawkish on occasion, Fry's honesty is therapeutic and his admissions fascinating.
Be warned however, that this is not a whimsical account of his comedy career. It is an emotional confession of the struggle Fry had in the first twenty years of his life. Although the man's intelligence and charm are evident throughout, he vents spleen aplenty and his language is rather colourful at times. His love of music, film and words are my loves and so I devoured his writing. His digressions (he calls then diversions) often lead to even greater digressions and this is wonderful. The style is not stilted or excessively crafted but heartfelt and accessible. Fry does not set out to portray himself as misunderstood but to tell things as they are. I found the book inspirational and somehow felt better about myself afterwards. It will make you think about your family and your honesty. Yes, you will laugh but do not read this expecting a saccharine happy childhood story.
Treat yourself and indulge in some pot-washing yourself.
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on 3 January 2001
This autobiography is of the first twenty years of Stephen's life. I started to read it vaguely knowing that this was the bloke off 'Blackadder' but once I'd finished, I rushed out and bought 'The Liar' and 'The Hippopotamus'. This book is brilliant. It is completely candid about Stephen's depression, homosexuality and school life, among others. It is, however, hilarious all the way through. The reader never feels inferior to Stephen's undoubted intelligence because of the way he mocks himself so easily. By the end of the book, all I wanted to do was go and find him and give him a big hug and tell him everything will be fine! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone, and also his other books which are all excellent as well.
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on 1 June 2004
I read The Liar and The Hippopotamus and found them a little too flowery for my liking, but then I'm not a great novel reader anyway. The pages of this book, on the other hand, turned so quickly, I thought they might catch fire.
As another reviewer stated, his frequent ramblings off the main thread of the story are sheer joy and make you feel he is in the room talking to you. And he can't resist teaching us a new word by including it then demonstrating its meaning e.g. rhotacism, or explicitly correcting a widely used grammatical or spelling error! All very familiar Fry stuff.
Stephen says himself that his life is at once as unremarkable as they come and stranger than fiction, when you put it down at the end, you feel he is spot on. Only once towards the very end did I see a quality in him that you could be unashamedly proud of.
Don't worry if you don't like his novels, this is one of the most absorbing and satisfying autobiographies ever written.
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on 18 March 2007
OK, this book is therapy. Reading it is, and I suspect writing it was too. I started it at 18:00h in the Dublin rush-hour (it's always advisable to have some good reading material at hand in that predicament) and finished it at 05:00h in the morning not even feeling tired, bladder bursting, dehydrated for lack of tea and grinning like a big, happy loon. I then read it all over again, straightaway. It has left me overwhelmed, chastised, wanting to shout out its virtues in Tesco and giddily, exuberantly happy; happy that such excellent language is still being written, that its creator should walk the earth as my contemporary and share his gifts so generously with all of us and, most of all, that he found redemption.

For, make no mistake, this is a redemption story; redemption not in the religious sense but in the sense of a soul coming to terms with itself. Stephen Fry's love for Oscar Wilde is well publicised, so maybe it's no coincidence that this account of his first twenty years reminded me of Wilde's fairy tales, these delicate, heartbreaking, deeply moralistic stories about love, betrayal, redemption and futility. Sometimes he finds himself cast as the Selfish Giant, sometimes as the Nightingale, sometimes as the ugly dwarf from The Birthday of the Infanta, and - might as well make full use of the Wilde connection here - the story about "Matteo" has taught me more about the true meaning of The Love that Dare not Speak its Name than over twenty years of worship at Oscar's throne.

Redemption is ultimately the result of learning to love yourself, and only once you learn to love yourself you can love others (if you don't believe me, look it up in the Bible). It is no wonder, so, that Moab is my Washpot is brimming with love, in the writing, in the feelings it evokes and between the lines. The deep affection for the people around him that is spilling from these pages is what makes even the worst escapades described on them forgivable and makes you want to offer your shoulder to the lying, thieving, betraying 17 year old Stephen to cry on. Where that school boy would have hurt people to hurt himself, 39 year old Stephen, the adult who had forgiven himself, asked them for absolution and received it.

All that said, this is still Stephen Fry we are talking about, so Moab is my Washpot is anything but a soppy hugfest. There are side-splittingly funny anecdotes in this book, deep literary and philosophical insights, acrid rants, pure, hilarious filth, language as beautiful as a white lily next to profanities that would make a sailor blush, fond asides about his colleague, confidante and Alter Ego Hugh Laurie that hint at the essence of their friendship, and everything else that makes Stephen so uniquely Stephen and us so lucky to have him.

Of course there are authors and influences without whom the book wouldn't have been written, or would certainly read very differently. There is a lot of P.G. Wodehouse in the use of simile, the way Stephen Fry displays his view of the world recalls Douglas Adams, and the whole book owes a certain debt to Graham Chapman's A Liar's Autobiography, a must read for everyone who enjoyed it.

Buy this book! Read it! Read it again! Pester libraries to stock it! Shout its virtues from the rooftops and include a copy in the payload of the next space probe to leave the solar system!

Not the full Five Stars, however, as the carthatic atmosphere that pervades this book occasionally - very occasionally that is - threatens to descend to that of a 12 Steps Confessional. Still, as autobiographies go, it is well and truly the dog's bollocks.
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on 1 November 2006
I've loved everything Mr Fry has done since he started out on the comedy circuit with that adonis, Hugh Laurie. This book is a masterclass in humility. A fine read and very touching - the part where Stephen describes his mother carefully cutting out and keeping the crosswords and his description of how he felt made me weep for days! Lovely, lovely, lovely. And lots of swearing. Just as it should be.
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on 18 April 2006
Stephen Fry is one of the most fascinating public figures in British life. This first autobiography is relentlously honest and entirely compelling.

Stephen Fry is an adorable human being and the journey of his early years is profoundly thrilling, enlightening and more often than not, hilarious.
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on 7 November 2007
This autobiography may come as something of a surprise for those who see Stephen Fry on the television and imagine that he's always been a sort of friendly uncle/Oscar Wilde hybrid. His early life was certainly troubled - for example, not everyone steals their girlfriend's (sic) father's credit card in order to be able to run away from school - but he writes about his first twenty years with a complete lack of whining or self-pity, and is unafraid to show the reader his own very grave failings.

Fry's wit and candour make this book very difficult to put down - indeed, I ended up reading it one session and, when coming to the end, investigating whether he had written further volumes. Sadly, he hasn't yet, so we'll just have to make do with this little gem for the moment.
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on 8 February 2011
I am at odds with this book! Fry has laid bare his early life and holds nothing back. One gets the feeling that he is, in some way, looking for absolution in doing so. I am left with a picture of a self obsessed, solipsist who is full of self loathing and hell bent on destruction at that point in his life.

I found some of the text wince inducing and uncomfortable to read but that is a personal thing, I'm sure. This outing (literally - forgive the pun) urges me to buy his more recent offering simply because we all know that the, "lad turned out alright".

I do view him differently now though. It's like when a friend says or does something that is out of character and there is just that small shift in your relationship. Read it, you might see what I mean.
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VINE VOICEon 28 January 2009
As the song says, Thou Shalt Not Question Stephen Fry - but I'm going to do it anyway. I love Stephen Fry. If I too were (to use his phrase from this book) "not like other boys" then I wouldn't be writing reviews of his books. I'd be out there stalking him. Fortunately for both of us, I'm not.

Fry at 51 is a beautiful man, and deserves credit for being so honest as to show what a smug, selfish, preening, dishonest and downright callous little b-----d he was at 10, 14 and 18. If that sounds harsh, it's nothing compared with how harshly Fry judges himself.

Even as he wrote this book (aged 40) he couldn't help showing off at times, which shows us that part of that insufferable little fellow is still there. Not that we need to be told that one of the best-loved men in Britain is insecure; it's part of his charm.

And although he is harrowingly honest, he occasionally stops short. He half-heartedly tries to put some of the blame for his stealing on his love for "Matthew", even though he has been a shameless thief since before he can remember. And he never seriously tackles what made him so amoral from such an early age.

Nonetheless, it is a beautifully written tale of redemption. One is left feeling that it was a minor miracle that he could save himself after throwing away every opportunity given to him.

It's not perfect. There are errors of English that should never appear in any book, let alone one by Stephen Fry (the worst examples are "baited breath" and "Rolls Royce's"). Regrettably, the present edition comes in a cover seemingly designed by the same people who do Jeremy Clarkson's covers. It's ugly, and nothing by Stephen Fry should be associated with ugliness.

But even with those criticisms, it's highly recommended. Some of the philosophical diversions are enlightening (if rather too adult for the younger reader), and Fry's characteristic humour shines through on every page. There are some glorious metaphors and, even if it is not as flawless as some reviewers suggest, it is still highly recommended.
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on 3 July 2007
This was definately one of the best books i have ever read, he is so honest in his difficulties and doesn't brag or big himself up in anyway. it really gave me a greater appreciation of the power of words, and of the relation of one human's experience to another. even though i probably have nothing in common with the author, i found this an extremely powerful and theraputic novel. his memories are particularly vivid and vast in number, spanning from age 3- to about the time he was 19. its also a fascinating insight into public school life and the authors opinions on it.
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