The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry

The initial reason I bought this novel should be fairly obvious to those who know me… because it’s Stephen Fry. Not only do I find him hilariously funny, but I admire his intelligence and sophistication. With this in mind, I had high hopes for this novel.

Ted Wallace is an ageing poet just sacked from his job writing for a Newspaper. Renowned for being opinionated, grumpy and a letch, he bumps into his goddaughter Jane in a bar. After discovering she has leukaemia, she sends him on an errand to investigate some weird goings on at the country house of her uncle, Lord Logan, as she believes she has been cured by his son Davey. The majority of the novel is written in letter form with the correspondence between Ted and Jane as he keeps her informed of the activities on the estate.

There is no denying this novel is rather entertaining; It had me giggling a good few times and the plot line, although unusual, kept my attention even if it isn’t exactly what I would call riveting. Due to the style of the novel, the majority is from Ted’s viewpoint. His sarcasm, cynicism and opinionated views make reading these sections very entertaining and there are several occasions where you can almost imagine Fry himself reading the lines aloud. The plot line is straight forward but once the plot has finally revealed itself and you set the novel aside, I didn’t feel like it would be a novel I picked up again in a hurry. My main criticism is that although this novel is entertaining, to me, that was it. I didn’t exactly expect anything of immense depth, as I said, it was a straight-forward novel but I didn’t feel hooked on it like I do with other works. Also, when Ted eventually gets his interview with Lord Logan that Jane requests of him, I felt that, although necessary, it was too long and frankly lagged and I found that section of the novel rather dull.

Aside from that, this is an entertaining novel I would recommend for a bit of a giggle but it’s nothing awe-inspiring. Just an interesting read with some good hearty British humour from the viewpoint of a grumpy old poet and lots of charming Stephen Fry humour.

Here’s a few lines that really stood out and made me giggle that I think I should share:

‘…They didn’t make me poet laureate and they wouldn’t if I were the only British poet left alive, which, as a matter of fact, I happen to believe I am’

‘Thank Jesus I’ll soon be dead’

‘I owe whiskey that… without it, I should be even more of a lost and bewildered old c**t than I am’

‘I am a city pigeon of course, needing hard paving-stones beneath my feet and air I can bite’

‘What on earth does that tree think it’s up to?’

‘ “Are we about to see you ride Ted?” “Given our respective weights I think it would be fairer if the horse got on my back and rode me’

‘Anal, my arse’ 

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