Book Reviews: Stephen Fry’s Memoir and Autobiography

For those of you who don’t know, Stephen Fry have 3 different books published as his Memoir or Autobiography. The first one is Moab is my Washpot and it is about his troublesome childhood; the second: The Fry Chronicles is about his life after school and especially at university and third More Fool Me most about of his career thus far.

This post will be my “book reviews” about the first and second.

But first: is it just me that find it strange that he has written an autobiography that are 3 volumes (and possibly more)? Do you know of anybody else that has the same feat? John Cleese has only written one once-off autobiography. What makes Stephen Fry so special that he has 3???

2) The Fry Chronicles – an autobiography  by Stephen Fry

fry chronicles

Back cover: (actually I found this inside seeing as the back cover of my book are just recommendations by the media)

Stephen Fry’s film, stage, radio and television credits are so numerous and wide-ranging that there is not the space here to  do them justice. It is enough to say that he has written, produced, directed, acted in or presented productions as varied as Wilde, the TV series Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, the sketch show A Bit of Fry and Laurie, the panel game QI, the radio series Fry’s English Delight and documentaries on subjects as varied as manic depression, disappearing animals and the United States of America…

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2010

I am ashamed to say that I do not remember much of this book, but I did like the categories or chapters. Everything is categorised under words that begin with C.

1) Moab is my Washpot – Stephen Fry

moab is my washpot

p. 432 “No. I was Stephen. I was always going to be Stephen. I would always be that same maddening, monstrous mixture of pedantry, egoism, politeness, selfishness, kindliness, sneakiness, larkiness, sociability, loneliness, ambition, ordered calm and hidden intensity. ”

Afterword: p. 434 “You have seen me at my washpot scrubbing at the grime of years: to wallow in a washpot may not be the same thing as to be purified and cleansed, but I have come away from this very draining, highly bewildering and passionately intense few months feeling slightly less dirty. Less dirty about the first twenty years of my life, at least.” Aug 1997

Rating: 5/5

Published: 1997

Here is how these two books have helped me: 

I read these two books during a time in my life where I felt lonely, depressed, doubtful, etc. and it was blissful for me to know that Stephen Fry has felt the same way during his lifetime. If I ever do meet the man in the flesh (yeah right! probably not) I will thank him and tell him what the man in the pages meant to me.

Book Review: “More Fool Me” – A Memoir by Stephen Fry

I am writing this review with somewhat mixed feelings. I did not enjoy reading this book. Not because it’s badly written, more in a sense that I found most of its contents disappointing.

more fool me

Back Cover:

“Oh dear, I am an arse. I expect there’ll be what I believe is called an “intervention” soon. I keep picturing it. All my friends bearing down on me, and me denying everything until my pockets are emptied. Oh, the shame.”

In his early thirties, Stephen Fry – writer, comedian, star of stage and screen – had, as they say, ‘made it’. Much loved in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, author of a critically acclaimed and bestselling first novel, The Liar, with a glamorous and glittering cast of friends, he had more work than was perhaps good for him.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as the 80s drew to a close, he discovered a most enjoyable way to burn the candle at both ends, and took to excess like a duck to breadcrumbs…

He was, to all intents and purposes, a high-functioning addict. More Fool Me reveals a side to him he has long kept hidden.

What I liked:

Anyone that personally knows the following people: Hugh H Laurie, Rowan Atkinson & John Cleese – and can call them his friends, must be well loved. He even mentioning meeting famous people such as the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the late Princess Di and even an encounter with the late Frank Sinatra… THAT scores a lot of brownie points in my book.

What I disliked:

But one can take only so much. There are pages and pages of names of people that he has met and known throughout his career. The first few pages is cute – after that it just becomes noise!

I am simply appalled, disgusted, shocked about his addiction and the sense that he is bragging about the addiction in these pages even more so!

On p.376 Fry defines a “memoir” as such: an act of literary remembering … to take a form as a dialogue with your former self.” That’s fine, but to subject your readers to such drivel? Is it necessary? No, I think not. The only part I enjoyed of the “Dear Diary” entries, was his wonderfully, creative anagrams that he made of his friends’ names.

He continues:”I flatter myself, vainly perhaps, that I have been having a dialogue with you. You might think this madness. I am delivering a monologue and you are either paying attention or wearily zipping through the paragraphs…”

To this I answer: Monologue – yes. Wearily zipping – yes.

Rating: 3/5

Published: 2014

At least he acknowledges that he is still a fool.

Truth be told, we have one thing in common:

Stephen mentions in his book that he is jealous of Hugh Laurie.

Dear Mr Stephen Fry: I am jealous of you. Yes, Mr. Fry, you better believe it – someone is actually jealous of you! Not the sordid stuff off course no, but your success.

Ek lees darem Afrikaanse boeke ook!

My twee mees gunsteling boeke in Afrikaans is:

1. “Moerbeibos” deur Dalene Matthee ***** (5/5)

Moerbeibos

Opsomming:

Silas Miggel is ‘n man van eenvoud en van eer. ‘n Bosmens wat sy mooie Mirjam op die oopte van Gouna se platrand grootmaak – eenkant, sodat hy haar kan weghou van mans. Dat hy onwettig woon op kroongrond wat vir immigrante opsy gesit is, traak hom min.

Hy is ‘n man wat sy eie dink dink en wat sy staan kan staan. Moeilikheid soek hy nie, maar moeilikheid soek hom.

Soos die spul rumoerige Italiane wat op ‘n dag op die platrand afgelaai word. Sywurmboere uit Italië wat ingevoer is om ‘n sybedryf te kom vestig, en dit op ‘n stuk aarde waar ‘n moerbeiboom verseg om in die potklei te groei.

Dat hulle die strawwe boswinter met sy aanhoudende reën en koorssiekte, met hulle kinders in tente moet sit, is maar die begin van die ellende. Hulle sukkel om hulle verstaanbaar te maak en om te verstaan wat in hierdie deurmekaar wêreld aangaan; hulle raak al hoe meer verbitter oor hulle deur die goewerment om die bos gelei en daarna vergeet is; en vir die ruigtes bly hulle doodbang.

Silas wil hulle nie daar hê nie, veral nie om sy dogter nie, maar teen sy sin raak hy betrokke by hulle lot; word hy sieketrooster en vredemaker. En planmaker. Want die Italiane wil hy op ‘n skip kry, terug na Italië.Hulle is klipmense, nie bosmense nie.

Maar Silas Miggel staan man-alleen teen die goewermentswiel, en dié rol stadig maar onverbiddelik.

En boonop raak sy meisiekind onregeerbaar: party dae verdwyn sy net en kom die aand stralend terug, en sy steek haar geheim weg soos die Bos sy lelies.

“Moerbeibos” is ‘n verhaal wat op ware feite gebaseer is. Dis vol gebeurlikhede: amusant, en soms snaaks, ontroerend, met plek-plek tragiese aksente.

Gepubliseer: 1987.

Opinie: Dalene Matthee is een van die min skrywers of selfs die enigste skrywer wat enigiemand lief maak vir die Bos. Sy het vir jare self in die Knysnabos en ander omliggende dele spandeer om navorsing te doen oor die bosmense. “Moerbeibos” is die boek wat ek die meeste geniet het uit Matthee se pen.

Dalene Matthee

Ek het ook een harde les geleer met hierdie boek: moet nooit die boeke wat jy met jou hart lief het vir iemand leen nie. Jy sal dit nooit weer sien nie.

2. “Tussen Stasies” deur Irma Joubert” ***** (5/5)

Tussen Stasies

Opsomming: 

‘n Aangrypende verhaal wat jou intrek en meesleur, karakters waaroor jy bly dink lank nadat die boek neergesit is.

‘n Treinreis, dink Jakob, is soos die lewe self. ‘n Mens is die hele tyd op pad iewers heen. Jy klim by jou bestemming af, vertoef korter of langer klim altyd weer by ‘n stasie op na ‘n volgende bestemming. Maar die trein hou aan loop, of ‘n mens afgeklim het of nie. En selfs as jy nooit weer op die trein klim nie, stoom die trein onstuitbaar voort, Behalwe as iemand ‘n treinbrug opblaas. Aspris, Per ongeluk.

Hy moes ‘n besluit neem vir haar beswil. ‘n Besluit wat aan Jakob Kowalski bly vreet. Ná  die treinrit van Pole af bly Gretl op die stukkende trappe van ‘n stukkende kerk in Duitsland agter – klein, uitgeteer met net die dokumente dat sy suiwer Aries is, haar pa ‘n gevalle SS-soldaat. En haar groot geheim. As een van die Duitse wesies kom sy Suid-Afrika toe, word sy ‘n Christen-Afrikaner-meisie. Gekoester. Gelukkig maar mettertyd word die realiteit meer reëel, word dit al moeiliker om te ontsnap na haar sprokieswêreld. En haar drome word erger  – die vuur wat sy nie kan blus nie, nie verstaan nie, waarvan sy nie kan wegkom nie. Soos van haar geheim. Net Jakob, ver in Pole, sal verstaan. Mag daarvan weet, kan miskien heelmaak.

“Tussen Stasies” is ‘n verhaal van die mens se onmag teen die noodlot wat dreig om sy geluk te verwoes. Maar dis ook ‘n verhaal van die mag van sy gees om bo dit uit te styg en te oorwin.

Gepubliseer: 2007

Opinie: 

Net soos Dalene Matthee daarvan hou om ooreenstemmings met die lewe en die bos te maak, gebruik Irma Joubert die “trein”.

Hierdie boek het ek ook smoorverlief geraak op ‘n karakter. Die enigste ander keer wat dit al met my gebeur is met “Jane Eyre” – maar dis ‘n boekresensie vir ‘n ander dag.

Hierdie boek is ook goed genavors en Joubert weet hoe om lewe in haar karakters te blaas.

Goodnight Mister Tom – MIchelle Magorian

goodnight mister tom

I absolutely love this book! Through this book I learned about the evacuation during the war. I also reached a milestone with this book by reading the thickest book with the most pages by then: 435 pages altogether!

Back cover:

Young Willie Beech is evacuated to the country as Britian stands on the brink of the Second World War. A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley – but his new-found happiness is shattered by a summons from his mother back to London.

Rating: 

5/5 Looks like all the best books takes place in some sort of war. Dear Mr Tom – every child growing up needs a person like you!

Published: 1981

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

book thief

This book came highly recommended to me by my aunt, which isn’t a total bad thing seeing that she also introduced me to “The Girl…” trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

I found this book in a second-hand shop.

Back cover:

Here is a small fact:

You are going to die.

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

Some important information:

This novel is narrated by Death.

It’s a small story, about:

a girl

+

an accordionist

+

some fanatical Germans

+

a Jewish fist fighter

+

and quite a lot of thievery.

Another thing you should know:

Death will visit the Book Thief three times.

Rating:

5/5 I had absolutely no idea what this book would be about except someone that steals books. But it is all about the  circumstances and time period. I absolutely love the writing style that the book was written in. I also love the idea of the character “Death” that introduces us to the main character.

Of course anything on the topic of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust gets my vote.

Published: 2007

Book Review: “Tomorrow is a Stranger” by Geoffrey Trease

tomorrow stranger

“Yesterday is safe,

tomorrow’s full of danger,

Yesterday’s a face I know,

Tomorrow is a stranger.”

Back Cover:

Guernsey, 1940: Just as Paul and Tessa are due to start school, the unthinkable happens – Germany invades Guernsey. The school is closed, most of their friends are evacuated, German soldiers patrol the streets. Suddenly, air raids, curfews and barbed wire bring the war frighteningly close. Paul and Tessa’s friendship develops with their shared experiences: the tragic news of the sudden disappearance of their pretty Austrian teacher, Rosa Goldschmidt; as secret mission after dark to collect a black market parcel. There are the everyday problems like food and clothing shortages, especially bitter for young people growing up into adulthood, mingled with real dangers and excitements such as producing an underground news-sheet.Yet unexpected moments of humour lighten the tension and make the hardships bearable.

“Tomorrow is a Stranger” is a fresh an perceptive look at how war affects the lives of two young teenagers.

Other characters: Slippery, Miss Grimbly, Oberleutnant Kurt Fischer, Copperknob, Sergeant-major Hermann Goering, Admiral Hüffmeier, George Gasson, Uncle Perry.

Rating: 

5/5 The poem in the front of the book has stayed with me all these years. It perfectly describes any war, but also this book. The next page might be full of danger and is still a stranger.

Words of wisdom/parts I liked in the book: 

Paul: “Smoking. I don’t like them. He didn’t like that sort of argument either. When he wanted to smoke, he would. But not to kid himself he was a man.”

Tessa’s point of view of tomorrow:

“Tomorrow always came. You couldn’t stop it. But Tessa was wondering now how she could face tomorrow. It would be like opening the door to a frightening stranger. Perhaps, as in some paralysing nightmare, opening the door to a man with only a skull beneath his hat. A faceless stranger.”

Miss Grimbly’s words at the end:

“I wish I could have caught up with Mr Fischer, I wanted to tell him, it is not the man we hate, only the uniform”

Published: 1987

Other books on the Holocaust

“Surviving Hitler” 
by Andrea Warren

This account is even more terrifying than Anne Frank’s diary before she was caught, maybe because Jack Mandelbaum lived through his suffering and survived!

Back Cover:

Once again, hunger turns the men into savages. When he is finally given his slice of bread, Jack holds it tightly in his hands so no one can grab it from him.

It is 1942. Fifteen-year-old Jack Mandelbaum has just arrived at a Nazi concentration camp. Torn from his family, he now faces disease, starvations and the insane brutality of the Holocaust. How can he possibly survive?

This is the harrowing true story of Jack Mandelbaum’s experiences during World War 2, as told by Jack himself to award-winning author Andrea Warren

Rating

5/5

Published
2001

One small suitcase
by Barry Turner

Back cover

The true story of how 10,000 children escaped the Nazi holocaust.

All the leaves have lost their trees (For Hannah who said it)

“All the leaves have lost their trees”
Child, what tumbled words are these?
(Yet I grieve for my last tree:
Far away the wind bore me.) – by Gerda Mayer 1978

This is the true story of the “Kindertransport” children, who were rescued from Nazi Germany and brought to England to start new live.

Rating
3/5

Published
2003

The Hidden Children of the Holocaust – Teens who hid from the Nazis
by Esther Kustanowitz

Published

1999

“I have lived a Thousand Years: Growing up in the Holocaust”
Livia Bitton

I came across this book in a second hand shop and I just knew I had to have it!

Back cover

This is the memoir of Elli Friedman, who was thirteen year old in March 1944 when the Nazis invaded Hungary. It describes the calculated process of occupation and her gradual descent into the hell of Auschwitz in intimate, excruciating detail. She vividly recounts what it was like to be one of the few teenage inmates and the miraculous twists of fate that helped her survive against all odds.

Rating: 

3/5

First published:

1997

We came as children
ed by Karien Gershon

Published
1966

A place to hide – True stories of Holocaust Rescues
by Jayne Pettit

one small suitcase place to hide surviving Hitler thousand years we came as children

2 Book reviews on Anne Frank’s Life

“Anne Frank – Beyond the Diary” A Photographic Remembrance
by Ruud van der Rol & Rian Verhoeven

Back Cover

In this book we see the human face behind this young writer’s eloquent voice. For the first time, Anne’s life before her family went into hiding is revealed, as well as the influences that formed her strong moral beliefs… And finally, evidence of the wretched conditions that marked the last years of Anne’s life, and testimony of the last people to see Anne and Margot (her older sister) alive in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, reveal the tragedy that followed.

Thoughts

I’ve often wondered why Anne Frank’s diary became so famous. She wasn’t the only Jew whose diary has been published after the war. Is it because we don’t know what she thought and felt during her last hours on earth? Or is it because she was way ahead of her time and that she had to grow up very fast? Is it because she couldn’t live out her dream of becoming a journalist and/or a writer?

Rating

This is a good book to see what kind of person Anne Frank really was.

Published

1993

beyond the diary

“The last seven months of Anne Frank: The stories of six women who knew Anne Frank”
by Willy Lindwer

Here is perhaps the reason why Anne Frank is so famous:

Back Cover

Anne Frank’s story did not end with the final words in her Diary… Little is known of Anne Frank during these last seven months of her life. What did she think and feel? How did she endure the terrible suffering of the death camps? Our only insights come from the memories of women who shared her experiences, whose lives touched hers – at Westerbark, at Auchwitz, at Bergen-Belsen.  Each of the six women has a remarkable story to tell. A story of unimaginable horror, but also of great courage and the power of friendship.

Rating:

Another great book beyond the diary.

Published:

1998

last seven months

Book Review: “The Road less Travelled” by M. Scott Peck

road less travelled

This is one of the most helpful and enlightening books I have read in a very long time. And it is not like other self-help books: this one is actually very easy to read and not boring.

Someone lent me this book when I was feeling very down and going through a personal crisis. (actually I’m still going through a crisis).

The only possible problem with this book is that it is full of the truth… and the truth really hurts sometimes. But if you are going through a personal crisis you have to face the truth if you want to get better. And the truth is that life is pain and suffering and the sooner you accept that life isn’t really that hard anymore. The book teaches about discipline and what love really is.

One very revealing thing that I learned is that the reason we don’t get better is because we are lazy. If we face the truth it means we are taking responsibility for our problems … and it is so much easier to blame someone else.

Well, maybe you should read the book. Dr Peck explains it better than me.

Back cover:

The new Psychology of Love, Traditional Love and Spiritual Growth

Confronting and solving problems is a painful process which most of us attempt to avoid. And the very avoidance results in greater pain and an inability to grow both mentally and spiritually.

Drawing heavily on his own professional experience, Dr M. Scott Peck suggests ways in which facing our difficulties – and suffering through the changes – can enable us to reach a higher level of self-understanding. He discusses the nature of loving relationships: how to recognise true compatibility, how to distinguish dependency from love, how to become one’s own person, and how to be a more sensitive parent.

Published: 1978

Rating: 5/5

Rating:

Laaste dag van Napowrimo 2015

Dis die laaste dag van Napowrimo 2015 en ek is half verlig en half spyt. Verlig dat ek nie heeltyd verplig hoef te voel om iets te skryf nie en spyt dat ek nie elke dag iets probeer skryf het nie. Vandag se gedig wou ek al ‘n hele rukkie gelede al skryf, maar ek het nie mooi geweet hoe nie. Ek weet nie of hierdie poging sal kwalifiseer as ‘n gedig nie so kom ons sê maar dis my eerste probeerslag.

Die wag vir die koms van die pekanneute

Daar staan twee pekanneutbome
in ons agterplaas.

In die verlede was daar altyd pekanneute
As jy jou oë uitvee
word nog ‘n emmer vol.

Maar hierdie jaar was dit anders.
is dit omdat ek aspris gewag het?

Januarie het verbygegaan.
Niks.

Februarie het verbygegaan.
Nog niks.

Maart het klein groen
neutdoppies aan die takke
begin vorm.

April het die neutdoppe groter geword,
maar was nogsteeds grasgroen.

Gister sien ek vir die eerste keer
die saaddoppe het oopgebreek.
Die pekanneute hang soos ‘n prys
wat gepluk moet word.

Vandag na werk tel ek ‘n hele bakkie op.

Om pekanneute op te tel
is soos om paaseiers te soek.
Jy het ‘n goeie oog nodig.
As jy weer kyk
dan lê daar weer een
al het jy vroeër daar gebuk.

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