So, it turns out that back in 2000 Stephen Fry wrote a psychological thriller. I’m a little baffled about how this novel has failed to hit my radar before, but I’m glad that I discovered it at last – ‘The Stars’ Tennis Balls’ is an absolute gem!
For Ned, 1980 seems a blissful year. Handsome, charming, popular and talented, his life is progressing smoothly, effortlessly, happily. And when he meets the lovely Portia Fendeman his personal jigsaw appears complete. But timing is everything in life, and his life is about to change for ever. Things are going to get very bad indeed for innocent young Ned. A promise made to a dying teacher and a spiteful trick played by fellow pupils will rocket Ned from cricket captain to solitary confinement, from head boy to hell. When Ned emerges he is a man bent on just one thing – revenge; and revenge is a dish he plans to savour and serve to those who conspired against him. Part love story, part thriller, a gloriously rich mix that only Stephen Fry can dish up to us, The Stars’ Tennis Balls will leave you happy and replete.
Inspired by Alexandre Dumas’s ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ , which I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read, this is the tale of Ned. It is 1980 and Ned is seventeen. He has everything: good looks, money, intelligence, popularity and a besotted girlfriend. Obviously, there’s going to be a change coming along, and this is the tale of Ned’s downfall and his ultimate revenge on those who did him wrong. (Incidentally, ‘Revenge’ is the title of the American edition of the novel if you’re confused about having read something like this before.)
After reading quite a few thrillers over the last few years, I found this one to be refreshingly different. This book is dark and twisted in places, but yet hilarious and poignant in others. Ned’s character is vulnerable and naïve, then vengeful and much darker towards the end. We have all endured plenty of people like Ned’s foil, Ashley Barson-Garland, either in real life or on Question Time, and I think that other readers will also enjoy his downfall, but my personal favourite was the hyperbolic character of Babe, who is a wonderful polymath.
Finally, on to the audiobook edition. Well, I’ve always felt that Stephen Fry is the king of audiobook narration, whether it’s Harry Potter or his own novels. Did I enjoy his narration of this novel? Absolutely! No complaints here at all – this is a masterful reading of an excellent novel. Thoroughly recommended.