Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Billy Liar (Longman Imprint Books)” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Billy Liar
Keith Waterhouse
Rate this book
Clear rating

Billy Liar (Billy Liar #1)

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  827 ratings  ·  50 reviews
To Billy Fisher, Stradhoughton is one long subtopian cliché - from the garish neon sign, 'Come Dancing', outside the Roxy, to the St Botolph's wayside pulpit reading, 'It is Better To Cry Over Spilt Milk Than To Try And Put It Back In The Bottle'. And the dimmer his surroundings, the keener is the edge on Billy's sardonic wit and the more fantastic are his compensatory day ...more
Published (first published 1959)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Billy Liar, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Billy Liar

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,157)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
"If you're in any more trouble, Billy, it's not something you can leave behind you, you know. You put it in your suitcase, and you take it with you."

Billy Liar is the chronicle of one decisive day in the life of its protagonist Billy Fisher; capturing brilliantly the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small town in Yorkshire after the second world war, it describes a young fantasist with a job at a 'funeral furnisher' and a bedroom at his parents' – and longing for escape to the Good Life in London.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The experience of reading this, for me, was the same I had with "Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis. Both are supposed to showcase British humor, written by English authors, with their principal protagonists both male dudes with their given names carried by the books' titles paired with adjectives.

I thus formulate a theory. I can't stop laughing with Latin American humor but simply couldn't get in the same happy mood when presented with the British variety. This must be because England is a much, much
This book made me laugh out loud. Not many can do that, so I give it an extra starry. I have relatives from/in England and the English sense of humor, mannerisms, and slang in Billy Liar was dead on. First book from England that really reminded me of my family and taught me why my dad referred to my old parakeet Casper, as "Budgie." The characters all seemed like sad caricatures, but the reader can't exactly buy into their two dimensional appearance because Billy is not a reliable narrator. Anyw ...more
This terrific fearlessly funny book reflects the mind of a type of kid reluctantly becoming an adult. I am of this type. Billy fisher is a dreamy, ironic, funny kid confronted with conformity and small minds in a small town in England circa 1953. It all seems so pointless to Billy that he greases his path and enlivens the journey by embellishing the truth, making things up, well if one wants to call it that, and many do, lying.

Underlying the humor and personal nature of the coming of age story
Ian Russell
May 19, 2010 Ian Russell rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: interned spirits, free range imaginists, anyone who remembers the tv series with distaste.
This was so unlike the movie and totally unlike the television comedy series, I was taken aback. Was I disappointed? No, not at all. It was far, far better. Darker, more despairing, almost uncomfortable to find it funny; more poignant, more believable. In fact, I wondered if I remembered the movie at all accurately now - the telly sit-com was plain awful, more so, I think, after reading this book.

Poor Billy Fisher, imprisoned in grim reality, sharing a cell with his own anarchic imagination, hop
Bruce Beckham
This is one of the funniest books I have read in a long while.

There is no epic story. It is merely a fantasy-packed day in the life of its hero, Billy Fisher. However, the style and the subject are elegantly crafted together.

And there is enough of a cliffhanger to keep you wanting to know: will Billy go to London (and leave his troubles and his two-and-a-half fiancees behind) or will he stay to face the music?

The narrative is written in the first person (that being Billy), and the author capture
J D Murray
Not sure how objective I can be about a book I read and loved at just the right age to see a lot of myself in the protagonist.

But I reread it recently, and it IS lovely. It's sort of a Northern working class boy book, but with nothing worthy about it whatsoever; it's fantastically funny, surprisingly heartfelt, and frighteningly realistic when it comes to what goes on in his addled brain. It's about a boy, not even a very nice boy, and the fantasy worlds in which he takes refuge from reality. An
Jan 09, 2015 Wastrel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone wanting a better, more readable, funnier, Catcher in the Rye - in Yorkshire
Not recommended for: not sure, there must be somebody out there who wouldn't like it.

A Yorkshire "Catcher in the Rye", only funny. Billy Fisher is a 19-year-old boy trapped in a small town in Yorkshire, desparate to escape to London. His life is divided between fantasy and anxiety (about his family, about his love life (including his multiple fiancées) and about his job (and whether or not his employers will find out about certain... misdemeanors...)), the latter largely self-inflicted as a resu
Phillip Edwards
I invite you to enter the kingdom of Ambrosia - a fantasy land invented by its beloved President: Billy Fisher, in order to escape from the boring Yorkshire town of Stradhoughton in the 1950's.

Billy is a compulsive liar - no, that's too harsh, he's a compulsive fantasist. Not so much an angry young man, as a feckless one - and this book chronicles the events of one fateful Saturday during which all of Billy's lies begin to catch up with him.

As well as daydreaming the day away in his beloved Am
I've been trying to read Billy Liar for years, since I first heard The Decemberists song of the same name. Finally, finally (!!!) I goaded the library into buying a few copies.
I absolutely loved this book. It's like an English Catcher in the Rye, but funnier and, dare I say it, better. (My 13 year old self would murder me right now for saying that.)
There are very few literary characters with whom I'm familiar that I feel a real connection with, but Billy is most definitely one of them. He may ev
Even reading this again in 2010 there is something painful and familiar about the character of Billy. Yes, it is funny but I love it for the way Keith Waterhouse created a character so real that I just wanted to be his friend, buy him a beer, help him get rid of the wretched calenders and set him up with the right girlfriend. The surroundings, the work and the era are from a bygone age but I dare anyone to read it and not identify with at least one thing that he finds himself doing or willing hi ...more
Jacqui Slade
Billy Liar - Keith Waterhouse

A bit about the author:
Keith Waterhouse CBE was born in Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire in 1929. He wrote several screenplays
as well as several novels. He died in 2009.
Billy Liar was his second novel and was first published in 1959 by Michael Joseph.
This edition published by Penguin books in 1967.

Billy Liar is the story of Billy Fischer, a 19 year old adolescent living in the fictional Yorkshire town of Stradhoughton with his parents and his grandmother.
One of my all time favourites. Read this more times than any other book. Absolutely love it.
rebecca clark
The Smiths - William, It Was Really Nothing
C.S. Burrough
Jun 04, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those seeking relief from complexity
This popular 1959 novel was adapted into a successful three act West End play starring Albert Finney, which enjoyed enough success to then tour globally. The acclaimed 1963 film starred Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie, featuring the marvellous veteran Mona Washbourne, legendary comic Wilfred Pickles and an early big screen appearance by funny man Leonard Rossiter, who would later become a household name in TV's hilarious Rising Damp. A 1973 London Weekend Television series followed, before a bl ...more
Tracy Reilly
I don't have the foggiest idea of where to get a copy of this, but I am anxious to do so , frankly due to its connection to The Smiths.

later--went to B&N: couldn't find it.

Later: I did finally find a used copy of this book, with the exact same cover this image has. I read it really fast, in less than a day, and it is just one of those books I WANT to have 200 more pages, but it doesn't.

Billy Liar is one of those great literary persons I would like to have as a pub friend . He is a shirker
This was a very entertaining and interesting book. The lesson learned from this book is: You can tell all the lies you want but in the end, you are only deceiving yourself. It is a cynical portrait of society but you can't but help like the well-developed characters in Billy Liar. Read this book for a very entertaining read.
This is a fantastic book! Hilarious but also touching. Billy is a comedic but also sad character. He has something of Holden Caulfield about him. The play with language is entertaining and especially for fellow Yorkshire folk the invention of new words like. 'Thraiped' will amuse!
Karen Wickham
Short but interesting book. I wish I hadn't read the introduction though as, instead of an overview of the author and his other works, or a short bio of the author, as I'd been expecting, it was a quite detailed synopsis of the story itself. So by the time I read the story I felt it had been somewhat spoiled.
Fanny Fern
Real fun to read,Billy is a ... liar. We see his Saturday along with all his lies that come across each other.
John Drumm
Reminded me of a review of ghost world, in that at the start the reader wishes, oh how bohemian I wish I was that witty. But as the novel progresses, we see how empty their lives are, the jokes are no longer funny. This novel is a cringe-fest, everything that could go wrong and Billy has feared goes wrong on this single Saturday. There are some parts of the novel that could have been pushed further, like Billy's fantasy land, which seemed like a scaled down version of the daydreams in Precious. ...more
This is a well- realised book about how our inner fantasy/dreaming lives start to damage and take over our real lives. Billy can't commit to anything and sabotages everything, because his dreams are so full, he can't bear to lose them and accept reality. I was amused by the Saturday night antics, as I don't think much has changed fifty or so years on. I think some readers may struggle with the Yorkshire dialect if they are not used to it. Overall, more thoughtful than I had imagined it would be.
Paul Monk
One of the first books that made me cry with laughter in public! Billy is a fantasist, a daydreamer whose lies catch up with him. It is set in the fifties so you have to bear in mind that Britain was a completely different place to today. I read in my teens and the compulsive liar thing was something new to me so in might not have the same impact on me now.
Aug 16, 2007 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want a very British take on not wanting to grow up
I can't help but be nostalgic about this book. I can't remember if I saw the film first but it's impossible in my mind to divorce Billy Fisher from Tom Courtney. There was a TV series too which I watched faithfully. This was the first comic novel I ever read but what got me was how it managed to fuse comedy and tragedy so perfectly.

I read the sequel when it came out. It's okay but some things should be left well alone which is why Adrian Mole should have stayed thirteen and three-quarters.
T P Kennedy
It's a good book as far as it goes. The idea of a protagonist living an alternative fantasy life is always fun - though Water Mitty is much better fun than this. The life that he's exploring is pretty bleak and of its era. It's well told, well written and a bit of pathos slips in. It's reminiscent of "Philadelphia Here I Come" though it doesn't have the genius of Friel. A good diversion.
Andrew Pessin
really wonderful book -- clever, funny, sharp witty dialogue, overall pretty depressing but with just the right amount of warmth, really wished for a particular outcome in the plot and was sad when it didn't come off, meaning i found it quite moving ... a little hard to deal with the britishisms at times, but overall waterhouse is clearly an excellent writer ...
A terribly boring book. Funny? No.
Derek Baldwin
One of relatively few books that was improved by the filming, though I admit that my views of the film are hopelessly skewed by unrequited lust for the young Julie Christie. I did things all the wrong way round with Billy: saw the stage play, then the film, then finally read the book.
Darren Richman
A day in the life of a teenage fantasist with aspirations of becoming a TV comedy writer. Ulysses if it was written by Michael Palin. If I'd read it at 15, this would be my favourite novel. Everything I'd hoped The Catcher in the Rye would be, but with a lot more jokes.
I had to abandon this book part way in - I honestly have not read anything worse. I only picked the book up from the library because my group were doing extracts from the original play for an assignment. I found all of the characters abhorrent, Billy in particular.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 71 72 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Strange People
  • Room at the Top
  • Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music
  • A Kind of Loving
  • Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, First Series
  • Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective
  • Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock
  • On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious
  • The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll
  • The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography
  • In Bluebeard's Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture
  • The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon
  • Tales of Beatnik Glory
  • Love On The Dole
  • This Sporting Life
  • Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir
  • Of Love and Hunger
  • The Quest for Christa T.
Keith Spencer Waterhouse CBE, was a novelist, newspaper columnist, and the writer of many television series.
More about Keith Waterhouse...

Other Books in the Series

Billy Liar (2 books)
  • Billy Liar On The Moon
There Is A Happy Land Billy Liar On The Moon Soho Book of Useless Information Jubb

Share This Book