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review The Stars' Tennis Balls

We are merely the stars' tennis balls struck and bandiedWhich way please them The Duchess of Malfi by John WebsterEverything about Stephen Fry's new novel including the title will be a surprise perhaps even a shock The only thing that can be guaranteed is that it will be his next earth movingly funny bestseller And we are still pretty confidently saying it will not be about earthworm migration patterns in East DevonThis is the story of Ned Maddenstone a nice young man who is about to find out ju. Ooo this had so much promise at the beginning I got so excited when I saw it at the library and got it home I ve enjoyed Fry s other novels so much and this one started so interesting between the diary and the love letter and then fell into this straight narrative style that not only was conventional but it seemed that Fry stopped trying The first two thirds were not bad but that last act was just awful I didn t like the protagonist Never saw any real fire or passion for his revenge and the actual set ups were so hacky and contrived I know Fry is a big supporter of Free speech who isn t but the whole internet thing was just poor I guess I was expecting a complete recontextualizing of the Count of Monte Cristo instead I just got a modern version that replaced hand delivered notes with e mail I ll take the Napoleonic version any time

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The Stars' Tennis Balls

St what hell it is to be one of the stars' tennis balls  For Ned 1978 seems a blissful year handsome popular responsible and a fine cricketer life is progressing smoothly for him if not effortlessly When he meets Portia Fendeman his personal jigsaw appears complete What if her left wing parents despise his Tory MP father Doesn't that just make them star crossed lovers And surely in the end won't the Fendemans be won over by their happiness  But of course one person's happiness is another's j. When Alexandre Dumas wrote The Count of Monte Cristo in 1844 he almost certainly did not have thirteen year old American boys in mind as his prime audience But when I first read the classic in the summer of 1963 I knew for certain that I too was living the horror of Edmond Dantes life Dantes a good and innocent man was cruelly implicated in treason by three friends who envied Dantes pending ship captaincy and marriage to the beautiful Mercedes Dantes is sent to the notorious Chateau d If by Villefort when the prosecutor discovers that a letter Dantes was carrying was to be delivered to Villefort s father a secret Bonapartist My own predicament was only slightly less dire than that of Dantes I was being cruelly imprisoned for the summer in the home of my aunt great aunt and grandmother deep in the hinterlands and five hundred miles from my friends who were experiencing the joy of the beach and girls in bikinis every single day I empathized with Dantes even if I secretly knew that I would be freed at the end of August in time for the new school yearDecades later I had passed the phase of devouring 19th Century classics My tastes ran to things like say the BBC s Jeeves and Wooster The writing was inspired the humor classic Alexandre Dumas Old school Very old school Then last year while browsing my local library s book sale I picked up a copy of Stephen Fry s 2000 novel Revenge I was vaguely aware that Fry best known in America for films such as Peter s Friends and Gosford Park was also a writer but I had never read any of his works When I picked up Revenge last week and started reading the book it took me about sixty pages to realize that I was immersed in The Count of Monte Cristo The story line has been updated the action begins in 1980 rather than 1813 Ned Maddstone is seventeen Oxford bound head boy at his private school and head over heels in love with Portia whom he met at a Hard Rock Caf in London But his very success makes other around him envious and they set out to put an obstacle in his charmed life by planting drugs on him and alerting the police When Maddstone is arrested though something else is found a letter containing a list of names of prominent Britons together with a code phrase used by the IRA to authenticate its actions prior to acts of terror Just as the letter being carried by Dantes was entrusted to him by his dying captain together with the letter s whispered addressee so Maddstone has no idea of the contents of the letter he has been given by the dying Irish captain of a boat on which he had been crewing When Maddstone divulges the name and address of the intended recipient of the letter to the detective uestioning him wheels are set in motion to get rid of Maddstone in such a way that he will never be heard from again Yep same bookThe rest of the story of meticulously plotted revenge updates Dumas with late twentieth century trappings The role of Abbe Faria the Italian priest and intellectual imprisoned for his political views is played by Babe a one time British intelligence agent who secreted away a fortune in MI 5 funds before being found out Instead of a treasure cache on the island of Monte Cristo the loot is in a Swiss Bank There are some very clever bits that underscore Maddstone s fifteen years in captivity he arrives in the world of 1995 never having seen a cell phone or a personal computer and the internet is beyond his comprehension But none of this detracts from the awful reality that Ned Maddstone was deprived of his life He is now fabulously wealthy and knows who set him up for the horror he has endured He sets out to exact that retributionFry departs from Dumas s story only at the end I m still pondering if it is better ending or simply one with a modern sensibility Perhaps it is something in Fry s character that he chose the denoument that he did All this is my way of saying that this is a good book Yes it is than a decade old probably sold poorly in America and is likely out of print But I note it is available in a Kindle edition I read it in two days and thoroughly enjoyed it

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Ealous spite And spite is about to change Ned's life forever  A promise made to a dying teacher and a vile trick played by fellow pupils rocket Ned from cricket captain to solitary confinement from head boy to political prisoner Twenty years later Ned returns to London a very different man from the boy seized outside a Knightsbridge language college  A man implacably focused on revenge Revenge is a dish he plans to savour and serve to those who conspired against him and to those who forgot h. A modern update of the Count of Monte Cristo revenge tale set in England between 1980 and the present day A well written thriller good for a pleasant diversionary read Starts off with a very compelling set up as the main character is betrayed and then sent off into a mysterious exile lost to his father and the girl he loves This is the most plausible part of the book although some fairly outlandish coincedences and connections occur to make the situation as bad as possible for the main character The second phase is the most interesting part of the book as the lead character is mentored by a mysterious stranger during his imprisonment Of course he escapes makes his way back to England and exacts his revenge on those who perpretrated the crimes against him as a young man The escape and the subseuent events are the least realistic parts of the book and in some ways most of the drama went out of the story once the main character returned to EnglandIf you are familiar with the details of the Count of Monte Cristo you ll find nearly all of them here in this tale Monte Cristo is one of my favorite old time adventure tales but I will admit that it bogs down in some parts especially towards the end Stephen Fry s update of the story is much shorteryou can breeze through this easily in a few hours And I liked this version better in some ways than Alexandre Dumas s original version For one thing since the story is set in the modern era I can relate much better to the means used to betray the main character and so can almost believe that this sort of thing could take place But that familiarity created by the modern setting works against itself when we come to the endgame because the main character manipulates events far too easily for me to buy into the idea that he could get away with such efforts and not be revealed by the press or his enemies for who he isOne last note about this book that I kind of enjoyed is the depiction of British class and social consciousness The archvillain of the story by that I mean that it is his jealousy is what sets the trail of events in motion is shown at the beginning of the tale to have a fearfully well developed sense of envy of the upper classes and he aspires to join their ranks while at the same time despising much about what he thinks they stand for This was a very interesting section of the book and it comes right at the beginning I am aware that these kind of class resentments exist in English society but they seem like very foreign ideas to me as an American So it was mildly interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of someone who harbors that kind of hatred though I can t be sure how realistic exaggerated or representative this character and his feelings areBottom line a good thriller for someone looking for pleasure reading Recommended to anyone who liked the Count of Monte Cristo


10 thoughts on “The Stars' Tennis Balls

  1. says:

    At the outset this is late twentieth century rendering of The Count of Monte Cristo If you don't know that story please don't read on any further it will be spoiler ridden and maybe you are from another planetWe all know what happens in The Count of Monte Cristo Edmond Dantès first mate of the ship Pharaon who has recently been granted the succession of his captain Leclère is trapped in a false intrigue by a group of people jealous of h

  2. says:

    My students seem at times to be wholly obsessed with “getting back” at people who have done them wrong I try to calm them down to refocus them on positive things but the truth is when you want to get revenge

  3. says:

    Ooo this had so much promise at the beginning I got so excited when I saw it at the library and got it home I'v

  4. says:

    With The Stars’ Tennis Balls Stephen Fry gives us a kind of modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo with a comedic twist and highly entertaining it is tooIf I had one criticism it would be that he occasionally slips a little too close to a somewhat adolescent revenge fantasy but that’s a minor uibble at most; don’t let it put yo

  5. says:

    When Alexandre Dumas wrote The Count of Monte Cristo in 1844 he almost certainly did not have thirteen year old American boys in mind as his prime audience But when I first read the classic in the summer of 1963 I knew for certain that I too was living the horror of Edmond Dantes life Dantes a good and innocent man was cruelly implicated in treason by three friends who envied Dantes’ pending ship captaincy and marriage to the be

  6. says:

    Stephen Fry's book Stars Tennis Balls aka Revenge was possibly one of the best books i have ever readThe story's incorporati

  7. says:

    Revenge is a modern re telling of The Count of Monte Cristo It is very well done because Fry manages to take the elements of Dumas’ novel that take the most suspension of disbelief and make them believable in a modern set

  8. says:

    A modern update of the Count of Monte Cristo revenge tale set in England between 1980 and the present day A well written thriller good for a pleasant diversionary read Starts off with a very compelling set up as the main character is betrayed and then sent off into a mysterious exile lost to his father and the girl he loves This is the most plausible part of the book although some fairly outlandish coincedences and connections occ

  9. says:

    since the beginning of this project I have projected Stephen Fry as my choice of english author ah this book reminded me why I don't read blurbs I did not realize until 200 pages into the book that I was reading a retellin

  10. says:

    I need to catch up on my Stephen Fry I mean aside from my marathon sessions of watching I episodes on youtube a shout out here to Nickfromfulham for posting them all I read The Liar and The Hippopotamus many years ago and found them both to be brilliant; I read his memoir Moab is My Washpot and was less favorably impressed This rewo

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Tessa Young is an 18 year old college student with a simple life, excellent grades, and a sweet boyfriend She always has things planned out ahead of time, until she meets a rude boy named Harry, with too many tattoos and piercings who shatters her plans.