Review: The Liar by Stephen Fry (1991 novel)

Fry is a well-known British actor, writer, and public intellectual as well as the former comedy partner of Hugh Laurie. This is his first novel, a very weird and occasionally very fun cross between a coming of age tale and an espionage adventure.

The narrative jumps around in time, including the protagonist’s early teens at an English boarding school, his later studies at Oxford, and his brief careers as (among other things) a teacher and a spy. An enthusiastic bisexual especially earlier in life, he illustrates Woody Allen’s observation that bisexuality doubles one’s chances for a date.

The other major character is an eccentric Oxford instructor who becomes something like a mentor to the hero and turns out to be something more than he seems.

Besides a few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, there sections that are unpleasant to read, others that are boring, and still others that just don’t make a lot of sense. It’s the sort of book some people will enjoy, some will find unreadable, and some (me, for example) will have mixed feelings about.

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