It is a heady tale of the late Eighties and early Nineties, in which Stephen – ever more driven to create, perform and entertain – burned bright and partied hard with a host of famous and infamous friends, regardless of the consequences.
This electric and extraordinary book reveals a new side to Mr Fry.
Find the book on Goodreads.
I am a huge fan of Stephen Fry and I was pleased when I found out he had written a third instalment of his life story, especially one that included a whole side of that story I knew nothing about. Even so, I did my research and found, to my surprise, a lot of less than stellar reviews. I understand that the recapping of his earlier years (featured prominently in his first two autobiographies) annoyed some readers, but Fry wrote it with self awareness and “spoke” directly to the reader a few times, and I found that whole hundred odd pages to be quite enjoyable.
I also enjoyed hearing all about his group of friends and the kinds of things they got up to – both work and play. It’s nice to hear about someone’s friends when you can actually picture them; Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Kenneth Branagh among those who feature in this book. There is so much that they have all done in radio, and on screen, and in print, both together and separately, and the behind-the-scenes of it all is something that really interests me. What didn’t keep my attention as much as I thought it might, was Fry’s cocaine days. As one Goodreads reviewer writes, [he] even manages to make cocaine boring. Though I understand the fine line he had to walk between advocation and condemnation of drug use, and this is something reiterated by Fry throughout the book, I can’t help but think that it might have been put across a little differently.
From there, the reader is treated or subjected to, depending on your point of view, a whole slab of diary entries from 1993. I say subjected to, because it takes you out of the “story” – though Fry does beg indulgence as he jumps around through the years of his life – and I say “slab” because that’s what it is. It feels lazy, like a cut and paste job performed purely to up the word count. Which is ironic, because the subject of those diary entries is mostly Fry’s struggles with getting words on the page for his novel The Hippopotamus. For all that, Fry writes with the love of language I share and reads his own work so energetically that I enjoyed the audiobook, for the most part, even where I might have become frustrated with the physical book.