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The Hippopotamus

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  6,740 Ratings  ·  374 Reviews
Ted Wallace is an old, sour, womanising, cantankerous, whisky-sodden beast of a failed poet and drama critic, but he has his faults too.

Fired from his newspaper, months behind on his alimony payments and disgusted with a world that undervalues him, Ted seeks a few months repose and free drink at Swafford Hall, the country mansion of his old friend Lord Logan.

But strange th
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published February 14th 1995 by Random House Inc (T) (first published 1994)
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Jan 26, 2014 Alejandro rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, novel
Sadly, it was not what I expected.


Since I enjoyed so much reading The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie, and due Stephen Fry is a very good friend of Laurie, and it seemed that Fry's style in novels can be quite similar to Laurie's, I thought that it could be a good idea to try some book by Stephen Fry.

I think that The Hippopotamus wasn't the best first choice. And while I didn't enjoy it so much, I still want to read some other book by Fry in the future. Maybe Making H
Aug 16, 2007 Beli_grrl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: an Anglophile with a dark sense of humor
A thought experiment to characterize the narrator of this book: What if somehow Oscar Wilde and Howard Stern had a son together?

Other reviews led me to believe that the plot would be very loose and mucky. Going into it with low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised when there was a pretty interesting plot and it was tied up rather neatly at the end.

If you are a fan of a good mystery, this is not for you. It is really only a mystery in the broadest sense. Mostly it's a comedy of manners.

I l
Danika Dinsmore
Jul 02, 2010 Danika Dinsmore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really had no idea what to expect from this book. I had never read any of Fyr's work before. I randomly grabbed it from the shelf. I was pleasantly surprised, but then again, I have a fondness for dry British humour.

I also have a fondness for anti-heroes, but they have to be intelligent and/or witty and I must empathize with them. This book's protagonist, Ted Wallace, is a "sour, womanizing, cantankerous, whisky-sodden beast of a failed poet and drama critic" - what's not to love? Not everyone
The cantankerous, alcoholic, abusive, yet strangely charming hero of The Hippopotamus is clearly based on the late Kingsley Amis, and you can view the whole book as a kind of homage to him. It's a first-person narrative; it starts off with the hero being sacked from his job as a theatre critic for yelling drunken abuse from the stalls, and before we've got to page 20 we've already had a wonderful disquisition on the worthlessness of bottled water and Italian salad greens. (He invites his long-su ...more
Do not bother with this book if you are easily shocked. It features lots of swear words, sexual references and bestiality... is also very entertaining and kept me gripped right up to the end.

The story is told from the point of view of Ted Wallace. He was once a promising poet but hasn’t written anything in years and is now old, cynical and grumpy. He drinks a lot. He also sounds exactly like Stephen Fry. As I read his words I just couldn’t help hearing Stephen Fry in my head. The other cha
Oct 28, 2007 Punk rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This had a sort of P.G. Wodehouse feel to it, but raunchier. Then I got to page 18, where the narrator Ted thinks:
Sometimes, in my dreams, I imagine a world in which women enjoy sex: a world of heterosexual cruising areas in parks and promenades, heterosexual bars, heterosexual back rooms, heterosexual cinemas, heterosexual quarters of the town where women roam, searching for chance erotic encounters with men. Such an image is only conceivable in one's fantasising bedroom, jerked into life by a
Salla Korpela
Jul 15, 2012 Salla Korpela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well well, it certainly was juicy and saucy on the surface, but beneath in all its misogyny and cynicism a praise for simple, pure, forgiving, patient love. This is how I actually read it.
The language definitely was a pleasure and, as a non-native English reader, it sent me repeatedly to the Merriam-Webster which, in fact, actually didn't always cope with the idioms.
The structure of the story allowed for a lot of small anecdotes and stories, ponderings, observations and philosophical thought, w
Feb 13, 2008 Earl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unlike the usual crap balyhooed by the New York literati, this book is genuinely funny.
Jan 09, 2014 Helle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour, english
In this novel, as in everything else he touches, Stephen Fry alternately entertains, amuses, provokes and alarms, and I found the novel to be part silly, part thought-provoking, part brilliant.

We follow Ted Wallace, a 60-something has-been journalist-cum-poet, who is outwardly and verbally a cynical misogynist. He travels to a country house in an attempt to unravel some rather strange goings-on in a family and finds a bit more than he bargained for. He goes there because he is the godfather of a
Tony Hightower
Mar 22, 2010 Tony Hightower rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot is a little weak, but you're not going to be reading and enjoying this book primarily for the plot anyway. Not that it's bad by any stretch, it's just that what will keep you moving through the book (and like all Fry's work, it is a quick and highly enjoyable read) is the amazing faculty he has with the language. Not a paragraph goes by without some turn of phrase, some peccadillo of thought, some left-field insight into how his thought process works, that will stop you for a moment and ...more
Apr 10, 2013 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was actually only the first book from Stephen Fry that I actually read. I have several others waiting for me, because who doesn't love Stephen Fry? (Well, okay, probably quite a few people, but I think he is smart, funny and tends to make me learn new things, too.)

Too bad this book did not necessarily quite live up to my expectations (which, in this case, weren't over the top, luckily). The writing style was amusing, the characters interesting, the plot kept me guessing until the very last
Nick Davies
Jan 13, 2016 Nick Davies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Perchance a three and a half rather than a four, slightly disappointing yet enjoyable, but I couldn't rightly give this just a middling three out of five.

I've read non-fiction authored by Stephen Fry before, but never one of his novels. In style this tale - of a dodgy old hack tasked to visit family in Norfolk to investigate strange going on - felt a little Christopher Brookmyre in style, with lumps of Kingsley Amis and the like thrown in. It was mainly amusing, occasionally hilarious, kinda cle
Well, it's Stephen Fry. How can it be anything but delightful? I was pleasantly surprised to find an intriguing examination of how children come to believe things about themselves.

Why aren't there more people as brilliant, witty, and elegant as Fry? Certainly in America, due to our amnesiac collective consciousness and delight in dumbness, we have a substantial dearth of anyone resembling him. If everyone listened to tapes of Stephen Fry discoursing on anything and everything for at least two ho
Jun 07, 2011 Skyring rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure what to make of this to begin with, but I found it increasingly brilliant as I went along.

Stephen Fry has wickedly rewritten the country house detective mystery. Brought it into the modern age, along with associated bad language and cultural references. But realistically, it could have been set any time in the past century. Like P G Wodehouse's novels of upper class English society, it is ageless.

Wodehouse could not have written this, however. Not enough fun, and too much sex. Incl
If you think that there is a discrepancy between giving a book 3 stars and placing it on the "disappointing" shelf, remember that the author is Stephen Fry, someone I think of as being awesomely smart and very funny. His intelligence is evident in this book, but much of the attempted humor falls flat. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that much of it is the kind of humor that might have flown a generation ago (think Kingsley Amis, Wilt Sharpe, Roald Dahl), but is completely jarring in 201 ...more
Ian Thornton
May 07, 2013 Ian Thornton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I keep on giving books five stars. Well that's because I am only arsed to read stuff I am very likely to love. Hitler did this, they say, so I am aware of my failing here, but balls, I want to be entertained. Bring on the next five star hit. With an attention span shot to shit like mine from a growing family and lack of sleep, I would be very unlikely to finish stuff I wasn't loving. Anyway, Fry is nearing if not already in the possession of the title of greatest living Englishman, though the ot ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Sukrita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has to be the funniest book that I have ever read. It is absolutely outrageously disgustingly funny. I kneel in the shadow of Fry's excellence.

It takes a bit to get there and Fry does love waffling on and showing off how many words he knows and can invent, but bear with it. The turns and sub-plots and some of the waffling too is simply simply delightful. I am not going to go into the actual story, the lesser you know before reading the better. Suffice to say, its an absolut must read for Fr
Đorđe Bajić
Jun 14, 2015 Đorđe Bajić rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, humor
Glumci koji pišu romane... To ne može da bude dobro, zar ne? Istina, u glavnom ne može, ali je Fraj izuzetak. "Nilski konj" je roman na mestu. Kombinujući humor (neretko crni)i hroniku engleske više klase, Fraj stvara ubedljivu priču o ljudskim naravima. Ton romana je zajedljiv, ciničan, to će odbiti neke čitaoce, baš kao i krajnje kontroverzni preokret u poslednjoj trećini.
Jul 02, 2007 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Quite fantastic! A bit of P.G. Wodehouse, but pretty joyous fun. Especially for the quite logical among us. Stephen Fry is amazing and continues to be so in his authorship.
Jul 23, 2010 Bingo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anything by Stephen Fry is brilliant and worth reading. Each book contains so many original ideas and interesting bits of information. It's like reading a dictionary of unusual words.
Oct 10, 2016 Sophia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sophia by: Vyzantia
2,5 στα 5 Δεν ήταν αυτό ακριβώς που περίμενα... Δεν με κέρδισε στην αρχή, παρά μόνο από τη μέση και μετά. Το ξεκίνησα με την υπόσχεση ότι θα γελάσω, αλλά δεν γέλασα όσο περίμενα. (Κακώς είχα στο μυαλό μου το υπέροχο αγγλικό χιούμορ;) Είναι μία έξυπνη ιστορία που στο δεύτερο μισό εξελίσσεται και προοδεύει, αλλά δεν...
Dimitrije Vojnov
Pročitao sam NILSKOG KONJA Stivena Fraja, još jedan briljantan roman višestruko talentovanog umetnika i javnog radnika u kome izvrsno prepliće razne forme, pre svih epistolarni roman, detektivsku misteriju i svoje opsesije - umetnost, stvaralaštvo, pisanu reč i bizarni humor, drzak i izuzetno uspeo.

NILSKI KONJ funkcioniše na svim nivoima na kojima se Fraj okušao. U epistolarnoj formi ne samo da pronalazi niz mogućnosti a ne ograničenja već mu ona i pomaže da razigra neke stilske staze za sebe.

Puh das war eine schwere Aufgabe, mich durch dieses Buch zu quälen. Den britischen Humor in Reinform, wie er im Klappentext avisiert wird, habe ich vergeblich gesucht und nicht gefunden.

Zuerst war mir die Hauptperson, ein alternder Schriftsteller und die Geschichte drumherum zu zynisch. Ich hab zwar gar nix gegen Zynismus, aber wenn er ohne Humor und Selbstironie in seiner reinsten Form präsentiert wird, dann ist er mir zu menschenverachtend. Dann wurde im Roman die "Familie" eingeführt, allesa
Matti Karjalainen
Edward Wallace on varsinainen virtahepo, vanha, katkera ja kyyninen runoilija, joka tienaisi nykyisin ryyppyrahansa teatterikriitikkona, ellei olisi onnistunut hankkimaan potkuja siitäkin hommasta. Kieltäytyminen leukemiaa sairastavan kummitytön tarjouksesta ei siis ole mahdollista, etenkin kun palkkioksi luvattuun shekkiin on kirjoitettu kuusi numeroa ja ainoana tehtävänä on raportoida kirjeitse kaikesta siitä, mitä tapahtuukaan eräässä norfolkilaisessa kartanossa, jonka monenkirjava vierasjouk ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
The moral, if there is one, is that it's okay to live life in any way you want to, so long as you remember there isn't anyone to save you or fix you but yourself.

Ted Wallace has some reprehensible qualities, but his best aspects have always been his sensitivity and honesty. So yes, he says some shocking things. There's a touch of misogyny there. He just wants to screw and drink. But for some reason he is the one that has been asked to make sense of this apparent miracle. And in the end, all of t
Jun 24, 2010 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thus far I'm totally taken aback. I love it.
Stephen Fry is one of the most brilliant individuals of the current time. To find that he excels in literature as well should be no surprise.
Is it dirty? Absolutely. Is the protagonist an egotistical, whiskey-soaked, misogynist? Absolutely. Remember...this is a work of fiction and try not to get all uppity about some cursing and lewd language. Don't forget that some of the best, and now, most respected works of art, literature, music and theater were
The Good:
1. Incredibly witty and well written. You can tell Stephen Fry put in a lot of work crafting each sentence. His sharp wit and charming word play are a delight to read.
2. The storyline, once it appears, is a fun little mystery. At first I thought this was a whimsical tale but it the twist is very appealing and surprising.
3. Its just an unusual little book. A night diversion from what I usually read. I have read Stephen Fry's other novel "The Liar" which was dark and at times disturbing.
Aug 04, 2009 MacK rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Faith: (n) a belief based on things hoped for rather than things seen.

I have faith in a great many things, most of all in literature and authors I admire. So I had faith that the first novel I read from Stephen Fry would allow me to revel in awe of one of the most sophisticated and witty writers in the world today.

Which is why I was startled to confront a first in my long life of reading--a plea for faith, for willing suspension of disbelief...that I could not willingly suspended my disbelief fo
Jenny Sparrow
Jul 26, 2011 Jenny Sparrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Если вы никогда не читали Стивена Фрая, советую вам непременно это сделать, но только, упаси Боже, не начинайте с "Гиппопотама"! Человеку, не знакомому с манерой Фрая изъясняться и некоторыми моментами его биографии, эта книга покажется во-первых, местами донельзя вычурной и пустословной, а во-вторых, просто-таки пошлой и вульгарной (из-за обилия нецензурщины в устах главного героя и откровенных сцен и аллюзий). Читайте роман, если вы, как и я, горячо любите Фрая, его иронию, его изысканный язык ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a classic example of the superb wit and crude yet eloquent language that Fry is able to weave whilst telling a brilliant story following Ted, a down and out poetic turned theater critic who has been fired from his job and tasked by his god-daughter to solve a bit of a mystery at Swafford Hall a country house in Norfolk. This book is packed with interesting characters that develop well during the story and provide their own entertainment and little quirks. Ted's letters to Jane are highly ...more
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Stephen John Fry is an English comedian, writer, actor, humourist, novelist, poet, columnist, filmmaker, television personality and technophile. As one half of the Fry and Laurie double act with his comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, he has appeared in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. He is also famous for his roles in Blackadder and Wilde, and as the host of QI. In addition to writing fo ...more
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“But you can't argue that the world isn't in an unhealthy moral state."

"Wouldn't think of it dearest. People lie, cheat, rape, swindle, kill, maim, torture and destroy. Bad thing. People also pop into bed together and cosy up. Good thing. If we think fucking is a sign of moral decay then we're a little bit stupid-stupid, aren't we?”
“In a dung heap, even a plastic bead can gleam like a sapphire.” 21 likes
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