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Billy Liar (Billy Liar #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,473 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Presents a regional comedy about a youth who attempts to escape his dull family life through fantasy.
Mass Market Paperback, 187 pages
Published June 28th 1988 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1959)
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Paul Bryant
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
A long Saturday in the life of 19 year old Billy who skates perpetually on thin ice and today looks like finally he will fall right through. He lives in Stradhaughton in Yorkshire and the year is 1959. It’s a small town. He’s such an aggravating, annoying fool. His boss at the undertakers (a comedy job) asks him to post 200 Christmas calendars out, but he doesn’t do it so he still has them stashed under his bed months later. His boss also asks him to post out some invoices, but he doesn’t do it ...more
Alice-Elizabeth (marriedtobooks)
If things couldn’t have started to go downhill, this book was another one that I highly anticipated that failed to deliver the fun comedy that I was looking for. Although Billy Liar, a lad from Yorkshire was an interesting character, the majority of the jokes that were featured, I simply didn’t find amusing. Baring in mind that this book was published way back in the 1950s so I feel that it fitted that time period more comfortably. It was a story that I simply couldn’t relate to. I struggled to ...more
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
"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.
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been meaning to read Billy Liar for many years. The 1963 John Schlesinger film adaptation with Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie is a firm favourite and remains etched into my memory. The 2013 Valancourt Books reissue - complete with the lovely, original jacket art - gave me the final push I needed.

The film adaptation is very faithful to the book (although the endings are subtly different) so there were no real plot surprises.

At the dawn of the 1960s, Britain was still generally a repressed
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
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Keith Waterhouse's 1959 novel must have blown like a fresh and impertinent breeze through the staid conventions of British literature. Or maybe not -- after all, Alan Sillitoe's "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" had by that stage already been published. So let's just say that between the two of them, Waterhouse and Sillitoe were responsible for stretching the boundaries of what could be accomplished in fiction, refining what had already been achieved by Kingsley Amis with "Lucky Jim" and John ...more
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brit-lit, fiction, novel, humor
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
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Stephen Tompkinson reads Keith Waterhouse's classic comic story about a young dreamer who fantasies about a more exciting life.
Matthew Marcus
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
A lot of the more ambivalent reviews of this book seem to stem from the reader's confusion about what they were getting into- "was it meant to be a hilarious knockabout comedy or a tragedy? I just couldn't tell!" Because of course it's both, or neither, and better than anything you can easily slap a label on. Billy Fisher is an Everyteen at that point in his life where he's getting strenuous pressure to put away childish things, but he's still spending a lot of time in his fantasy world (literal ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lapl, 1001-bymr
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
J D Murray
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Ian Russell
May 19, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
really enjoyed this book and makes me think of the first teenagers at the time of the late 1950's where things were changing and like the plot of billy who lives in his own little world as cannot really cope with reality which catches up with him
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
“A hero for our times” says the cover of the modern edition, but in fact Billy Fisher is offered as an antihero in this YA, coming-of-age novel written at a time when the notion of a “teenager” was just emerging, and “pop culture” wasn’t yet a thing. So with the underage drinking, back-talking to parents, premarital sex and direct (at least for the 1950s) references to birth control, I imagine that this book was quite rebellious and ground-breaking in its day.
Is it impossible for Billy to tell t
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
Bruce Beckham
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ivy-Mabel Fling
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some of this is funny but on the whole it is the tragic tale of how lying becomes a habit and a way of life: Billy lives in a world of delusion where facts and the truth no longer play any role. Does that sound familiar to any of us today?! It should do.
Tracy Reilly
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, again-and-again
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
Aug 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Cindy by: Second-hand bookstore in Gent
I am surprised that compulsive liars can lie with such nonchalance, but I suppose it makes sense?

A quote I enjoyed: The people walked about as though they were really going somewhere. I stood for a quarter of an hour at the time, watching them get off the buses and disperse themselves about the streets. I was amazed and intrigued that they should all be content to be nobody but themselves.

A line that made me smile: In fact Arthur's American accent had become so pronounced that it was difficult t
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Karen Wickham
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
rebecca clark
Oct 01, 2008 marked it as to-read
The Smiths - William, It Was Really Nothing
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: britlit
One of my all time favourites. Read this more times than any other book. Absolutely love it.
Kirsty 📚📖❤️
One of the 1001 books to read before you die. I liked it, it was ok. I won't read it again and I'm a bit unsure where the funny bits of this "comedy" were. Not bad
Katy Noyes
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Walter Mitty' crossed with Room at the Top

Billy has aspirations. His northern family and roots can't stop him dreaming of a 'number one life' in London, scriptwriting for comedians. He's even had a letter offering him a job. Problem is, we come to learn that he's a bit of a fibber, a bit of a procrastinator, and having proposed (and given the same ring) to two women - a bit of a cad.

With his head in the clouds (his own world of Ambrosia, with idealised parents and where he always says something
Mike Steven
I have no idea what made me decide to read this and, upon reading the first chapter I was sure I was going to hate it. It appeared very much 'of its time' - dated and very much a regional piece of fiction.

However, I persevered (as I always do with books) and by about chapter three was totally into it. Don't get me wrong, it's no brilliant work of fiction, however, it is good fun and charming right until the end. The protagonist - Billy -is bored to tears with his job as an undertaker's clerk, hi
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. A good read about the day when everything goes wrong in the life of Billy Fisher. Billy is 20 years of age, works as an undertaker's clerk and lives with his mother, father and sick grandmother. Billy wants to be a comedy script writer and go to London. He currently lives in a town called Stradhoughton in Yorkshire. Billy is irresponsible both at work and with people. At work he has unaccountably failed to post 200 of the firm's calendars, instead keeping them in his room at home. He ...more
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Keith Spencer Waterhouse CBE, was a novelist, newspaper columnist, and the writer of many television series.
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“I turn over a new leaf every day. But the blots show through,” 5 likes
“I felt mildly peculiar to be treasuring love letters for their grammar, but there was nothing else I could treasure them for.” 0 likes
More quotes…