My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I should preface my review by saying that I am quite a fan of Mr. Fry’s work so there may well be a bit of a bias in here somewhere, but I will try my best to just be honest.
Simply put this is volume two in the on going life chronicles of the one-of-his-kind, Stephen Fry. The first was confoundingly titled “Moab Is My Washpot” which spanned the first 20 years of his life, this sequel picks up almost immediately after the first, fleshing out his immediate decade following his time in prison as a young man and takes us through his time as a Cambridge student and his early comedic endeavours and successes.
Set during the 80s, there is a lot that is there in the cleverly selected details – of which Fry is not often short – coupled with his particular flair for language that really brings about a lot of nostalgia for those that would have lived through much of it. The music, the computers and gadgetery and the changes that were so characteristic of that decade. We also get to read about his friends and colleagues that its hard not to know – his fellow talents like Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Tony Slattery who have both been long-time friends and collaborators; Rowan Atkinson on his rise from “Not the Nine O’Clock News” days; Ben Elton and Robbie Coltrane with whom he worked on Alfresco and others.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lets try this in a more orderly manner.
We pick up with a young Stephen who starts out for a new direction after his youthful, indiscretions shall we say? Figuring things out he spends time as a student and also dabbling in teaching (which apparently almost became his career), his move from there to Queens College in Cambridge where he became a part of the Cambridge Footlights Dramatic Club where he met Laurie and Thompson among many other interesting and memorable characters. New loves, new experiences both good and not-quite so and all manner of quintessential collegiate experiences abounded.
From there we follow his journey through work in radio voice-overs and television which led us to gems like his and Laurie’s collaborations in series like A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, Blackadder (with Atkinson) and Alfresco. He even wrote an award winning revision of the musical Me And My Girl which starred friend Emma Thompson at the opening and ran for nearly a decade after.
Despite the interesting subject matter and delivery, there are times where you feel he could have put in perhaps less now and again as moments feel slightly slow. At times one thinks he could have expanded in other places and been shorter in others. But even with this in mind, overall the book comes across as candid, engaging and ever amusing. Written with his characteristic wit and charm, the book reads very well and flows easily from start to finish as Fry’s unique charm keeps you from losing interest even at the dryest points.
Though it is quite long for an autobiography covering ten years, I must admit I would be hard pressed to be an editor on this book and
be able to honestly decide what to cut.
If you are a fan of his work then this is a book that is well worth the read, his sense of humour and style satisfy in their familiar fashion. For those not quite so familiar with the man or his work, it is worth reading because it is not only a very entertaining read, it is an enlightening view of a most unorthodox man who has become an icon in his own lifetime and travels some of what he himself terms as the more happy times in his life.
Ending just at the time when he heads in a direction that most all celebrities find hard to avoid – drug us, in this case cocaine – it is also unusual in that is starts at the low point where volume one ended and traverses a good, productive period and ends at the start of a darker time yet to come. Before you wonder, he does indeed have a third volume planned which will delve into this part of his life.