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The Liar

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  11,883 ratings  ·  714 reviews
Stephen Fry's breathtakingly outrageous debut novel, by turns eccentric, shocking, brilliantly comic and achingly romantic.
Adrian Healey is magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life; unprepared too for the afternoon in Salzburg when he will witness the savage murder of a Hungarian violinist; unprepared to learn about the Mendax device; unprepared for more mu
Kindle Edition, 404 pages
Published July 1st 2018 by Soho Press (first published September 16th 1991)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,883 ratings  ·  714 reviews

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Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anglophiles and lovers of British humour
Stephen Fry ranks among my favourite persons on earth. There's something about his terribly English combination of wit, erudition and a dirty mind that never fails to delight me, and it shines brightly in The Liar, the first of the four novels he has published so far. An irreverent and intelligent take on such British institutions as the public-school novel, the Cambridge novel and the spy novel, it is best appreciated by people who have an affinity for such things, but really, anyone with a tas ...more
Dec 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Fry is a very funny comic actor, in Blackadder and the TV version of Bertie & Jeeves, among others. This debut novel concerns a young lad at a prep school, who later (or is he lying?) becomes a street prostitute and then, under the tutelage of his supremely arch and worldly mentor at Cambridge, becomes involved in an international espionage drama, which turns out to be not at all what it seems – more than once.

Although Fry writes some sharp and funny dialogue, this book never really decides what
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Stephen Fry should stick to acting. The Liar is a valiant effort, and it is clear Fry is well versed in 'significant' english literary tropes...but this is far from making him a good writer. The construction of the story is as sickeningly 'clever' as the main character but ultimately also just as superficial and empty...and in contrast to the main character also kind of sloppy. Fry uses time-worn devices to confuse, obscure and misdirect--effective for what turns out to be a ha-ha-got-you spy no ...more
Paul Sánchez Keighley
DNF'ed at circa 30%.

I love Stephen Fry. He’s a charming, funny TV man. Sadly, what makes him appealing on TV doesn’t translate well into literature.

He spends too much of the book flexing his encyclopaedic knowledge to no point at all, which is great in the context of a show like QI, but when it’s interspersed with a story you’re struggling to engage with, the result feels like trying to watch a pirated film in the mid-2000’s while constantly swatting away unsolicited pop-up ads.

I didn't hate i
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, novels
Loved, loved, loved it! And I can see where others wouldn't.

The dialogue reads like white-water rafting. The story-telling tantalizes and satisfies like the tongue-in-cheek sex scenes (no pun intended?) that work themselves onto every third page. And the hero, Adrian, should be the sort of character I detest, the kind that ruins the whole book for me. But the near perfect collage that are his lies and truths, his desires and apathies, yanks at every sense until "smitten" sounds too gentle a desc
Jr Bacdayan
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Not one word of the following is true." Stephen Fry started out his book with this proclamation. I've always loved British Humor and quite frankly, I've always liked Stephen Fry so I had great expectations for this book. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was rather quite surprised. I didn't expect it to be this good. Adrian Healey the protagonist, a modern Oscar Wilde type (who is also a compulsive liar, hence the title) is so witty, so charmingly smart (well, most of the characters are indeed ...more
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took a while to get into but very funny!
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and funny book. Love it.
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who like British humour.
“Not one word of the following is true.”

This book was a total mess spanning more than one timeline, without making you feel as if you realized that, because you didn’t, or you did too late. And you realized too late that the idea behind it is much farther than the humour and the ‘game’. I tell you, this book is a chronic liar too.
Stephen Fry’s genius is sprayed everywhere. In every page throughout this book. From the character development and the plot twists and the humour and the smart dial
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
I thought this was a very though book to get into, especially because it takes pretty
long to see what the book is trying to tell you. Also the writing style used is confusing and a bit pretentious. About 40 pages into the book that all started to matter les, because I was fascinated by the protagonist Healey. Healey is a boarding school kid and is a pretentious crook and a liar. In that way the writing style is very fitting for the book, and might have been a conscious choise of Stephen Fry.

Laura ☾
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Honestly, I usually really like Stephen Fry, and this was disappointing!

The narrative was really disjointed, and it lacked his usual charm.
Sandi (Zorena)
I find it fitting that I started my reading challenge with Mr. Fry and am closing it out with one of his books. For a debut novel this is remarkable but then again so is the man that wrote it. It is every bit as witty and charming as the man himself. Which to me reinforces the veiled autobiographical nature of it.

If you want a fun romp with a thriller basis this book is for you at least until it switches genres. Unfortunately it tries to be too many other genres at the same time but one thing it
Jennifer B.
This isn't something I would've sought out to read, but seeing as I like Stephen Fry and came across this sitting neglected on a library shelf, I figured I'd give it a go. All in all, it was entertaining, and a fast read. It's a bit all over the place, and definitely trying to sound funny and smart, and begging the questions of what isn't a lie and who isn't a liar? ...more
Love love love Stephen Fry but this one was a little hard to follow. I think I got 90% of the story but there were some very confusing bits. Even so, his writing is wonderful.
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Fry is a wit and raconteur if ever there was one. His first novel "The Liar" is an interesting, erudite, comic, and witty semi thriller all in one package. The protagonist of this novel, one Adrian Healey, is always lying to and fooling others. In no great irony the person he is lying to the most is himself. Almost every reader will see some of their own foibles in him at some point in the text, which can make for some uncomfortable reading moments. Adrian is both nasty and kind, and I v ...more
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who aren't afraid of naughty language
After reading the unabridged version, I've decided this is one of my favorite books.
Fry stylistically jumps around in his narrative in order to add the feel of disunion with reality. Adrian, Fry's out-of-touch, flamboyant, attention-seeking miscreant of a protagonist, is one of the most wonderfully amiable and relate-able characters in modern literature, because we don't like to think he is. In one way or another, we're all like Adrian. Estranged, lonely people who just want to be /liked/. Who j
Timothy Hinkle
Part of the fun of realizing that a novel's narrator is unreliable is that the whole structure of the book becomes a puzzle—which are the bits that we ought to believe? Fry (or, I suppose, whoever the book's narrator is meant to be) insists from the beginning, however, that this is not the game that he's playing, claiming that "Not one word of the following is true."

So, what actually is the game? Is Fry aiming for a certain effect, or is this just a lazily tossed-off first novel which fails to h
Sep 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour, literature
I need to start by saying that I think this man is a God, which does seem to be the standard opening play in any discussion of Stephen Fry by at least one person in the room. If, in this case, that person needs to be me, well, so be it. This is his first novel and although there were parts of it that had me making the kind of snorting sounds that could all too easily have had people thinking I was suffering from a terribly debilitating illness – mostly I don’t think it worked. It pains me to say ...more
Bernadette Jansen op de Haar
A good read but not as sophisticated or literary as it pretends to be.
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This novel is so many things at once - a British public school pastiche, a coming-of-age novel, an espionage thriller, a saddening commentary on life, yet at once a manifesto for everyone who's ever felt out of the ordinary, a heart-breakingly true account of the madness of being young and in love, and so on. I adored Adrian from the first, laughed out loud about 50 % of the total time I spent reading this book (which amounts to little over five or six hours, as I ripped through it). I do think ...more
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I hadn't read "Moab is my Washpot" before reading "The Liar", I would probably have enjoyed it more. As it is, this book now seemed to be an odd mix of two separate books: an addition to Fry's school years autobiography, and a camp espionage caper. Not unlike Oscar Wilde, the author sprinkles bon mots throughout the text. The recondite (!) vocabulary is sometimes exhilarating, sometimes tiring, typical for the "Look mama, no hands.." mentality of a new author keen to prove his virtuosity. On ...more
Moshe Mikanovsky
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and funny as Fry can be, it was also hard to follow as the timeline is all over the place. But don’t fret, the journey is quite worthy!
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
English boarding schools have much to recommend them. If boys are going to be adolescent, and science has failed to come up with a way of stopping them, then much better to herd them together and let them get on with it in private

If you combined Douglas Adams with Jean Genet and asked this new man to rewrite Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, the writer would write very much like Stephen Fry and the book would look a lot like The Liar. It would all be too too and so very very.

…he had read and absorbed more
Laura | What's Hot?
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
~ 2.5-3 stars ~

I was excited to get stuck into Stephen Fry’s debut novel to see if it lived up to his reputation but to be honest I’m still rather unsure about the whole thing. Simultaneously witty and pretentious, clever and confusing, I went through some passages where I really didn’t get what the *point* was, but maybe, after all, that was the point?

I can totally see why this book has garnered both love and hate and my gut feeling is that it will be loved by those who are more familiar with
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
(Review first posted on Booklikes - .)

This is such a first novel. It has all the aspiration of a first novel, complete with an author who can write - and we KNOW he can write.

Unfortunately, the main character of this one - Adrian - is a bit of a bore, who lives up to every imaginable cliche associated with a public school boy, and the plot of The Liar only serves to confirm Adrian's lack of ingenuity. But that of course is the point. Adrian has to be a
Barry Pierce
This is Stephen Fry's first book and for a first book it is brilliant! Now, not every part of the book is brilliant. The cricket match near the end was dull (like most cricket matches) and the italic "chapters" between each chapter are very confusing until the end where it all comes together like a slightly dysfunctional dream. Adrian Healey is just a brilliant character. I wish I knew someone like him, how fun that would be! Some pieces are a bit graphic e.g. Adrian and the nurse. However they ...more
Miss Bookiverse
The first half of the book deals with the protagonist's teenage years which are quite bizarre but rather interesting. After that the story turns into some weird crime-murder-something I didn't quite grasp. Also the change happened so quickly that I wondered whether I had skipped some tracks but I hadn't. So first part good, second part bleh.
Apart from that the use of words is wonderful and original, I had to marvel at quite a few sentences.
Pooja Dave
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved how the book was a-chronological and how there are small nuances of each character brought out. Humour is not the only highlight that Stephen Fry has brought out here - it's the character sketch of Adrian! And I could relate to him beyond words :) ...more
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Fry begins marvellously by introducing us to Adrian; a witty, know it all, too big for his boots public schoolboy who becomes involved in various amusing scenarios as we get to know him. He truly is a wonderful character and his antics show him to be incredibly charming, albeit completely nasty and self absorbed.

In terms of plot, I have no idea what Fry was attempting to do with this. He mixes Adrian’s school antics with some espionage and murder as though he were mixing oil and water. We flick
Louise Gyles
I’m unsure what to make of this book. I begun confused and struggling to get into it, then developed a liking of the main character Healey, who, though pretentious and over the top, became an entertaining read.

I struggled with the changing of the chapters, sometimes seeming to jump around in time and place and taking a while to fully understand what was going on again. Fry used italic pages dispersed throughout to link to a spy style ending, but they got a bit lost and seemed unnecessary.

The w
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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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