You can tell this was Stephen Fry’s first novel. He is one of my favourite humans, and he can do no wrong in my eyes, but even I have to admit that this was a little scattered. It was structured that way on purpose, but I don’t think it worked as well as was intended.
We follow Adrian Healey as he advances through school and into adulthood. The story jumps around a little throughout his life, and interlaced are short chapters featuring characters identified only by their clothing. They use code names and speak ambiguously, their identities and the identities of those they refer to only hinted at. It’s a mystery story, but in an odd way the mystery is to find out exactly what’s supposed to be mysterious, if that makes any sense. At the end, the two lines of narrative converge and all is unveiled.
The events in Healey’s life are influenced heavily by Stephen Fry’s own life, as he mentions in Moab Is My Washpot, but it almost feels like he was trying to write a hyperbolic take on his autobiography and decided he had to wrap some sort of plot around it. The mystery didn’t pique my interest until the final reveal. I enjoyed reading it the entire time, but I didn’t feel at all invested.
If you take any single scene from this book, it’s a hilarious and interesting and well written. In this case, that was actually enough to keep me enjoying the book the whole way through, but with a lesser writer I don’t think that would have been the case. Those great scenes unfortunately just didn’t come together in a coherent way.
It’s like if the Power Rangers were kicking ass individually, but then they joined together and the giant robot had an arm for a head and was missing a leg. Everyone would be like, you guys should have stayed apart. You were doing great. This is really not as effective.
I don’t mean to be a downer. This is his first novel, and I did really enjoy it, but I probably had unrealistic expectations for him. I plan to read everything he’s ever written, and I’m sure it’ll only get better.