Book Review – THE HIPPOPOTAMUS by Stephen Fry

The Hippopotamus by Stephen FryThe Hippopotamus Synopsis: 

Ted Wallace is an old, sour, womanising, cantankerous, whisky-sodden beast of a failed poet and drama critic, but he has his faults too. Fired from his newspaper, months behind on his alimony payments, and disgusted with a world that undervalues him, Ted seeks a few months repose and free drink at Swafford Hall, the country mansion of his old friend Lord Logan.

But strange things have been going on at Swafford. Miracles. Healings. Phenomena beyond the comprehension of a mud-caked hippopotamus like Ted…. (Audible)


The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry is not for the faint-hearted or prudish. Fry’s description of his characters’ intimate encounters are very explicit, but this same objective scrutiny and satirical dissection applied to characters’ motives and behaviours yield some brilliantly funny passages. Add to Fry’s sparkling and witty prose, the narration by Fry himself, and the result is me giggling like a crazy person sitting by myself in my car during peak hour traffic.

Ted Wallaces’ rants about society figures and past acquaintances are delectably dark and razor sharp – the ferocity with which he deprecates others along with himself is awe-inspiring. But as with any person that takes pride in being a curmudgeonly brute, the circumstances Wallace finds himself in lead to a self-awakening of sorts. Low and behold the tables turn, with the habitually deluded shining a light on the delusions of those respectable folk around him.

The ostensible superficiality of the characters featured within it (a colourful and eclectic bunch), belies the depth of meaning and heart to be found within The Hippopotamus. This is not quite ‘meaning of life’ territory, but the subjects of human identity, courage and endeavour are certainly taken for a spin.


Some may say it’s contrived – I’d say well of course it is, the level and complexity of the contrivance is what makes it so hilarious!

I was thoroughly entertained by The Hippopotamus written by word master Stephen Fry. Wit and pathos bursting from a deliciously satirical and decadent package.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

Have you read The Hippopotamus ? Do you want to?

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BOOK DETAILS:  The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry ( Audible | Booktopia | Book Depository | Kobobooks | Amazon)

Genre: Drama, Humour, Audio, Mystery

Author Information: Stephen Fry is an award-winning comedian, actor, presenter and director. He rose to fame alongside Hugh Laurie in A Bit of Fry and Laurie (which he co-wrote with Laurie) and Jeeves and Wooster, and was unforgettable as General Melchett in Blackadder. More recently he presented Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, his groundbreaking documentary on bipolar disorder, to huge critical acclaim. His legions of fans tune in to watch him host the popular quiz show QI each week.

– Check out Stephen Fry’s website.

Other reviews of The Hippopotamus: The Independent; The Art of Reading; Kirkus Reviews

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4 Comments on "Book Review – THE HIPPOPOTAMUS by Stephen Fry"

Tony Ziemek
February 1, 2014

Great review Jo. Stephen Fry is simply the best of British. Although as gay and Jewish I’m guessing the Daily Mail readers don’t think of him in the same way!

January 15, 2014

I’ve never read one of Stephen Fry’s books, but I love listening to him on TV/radio. Your review of this book has made me wonder why I haven’t tried him before – this sounds perfect for me!