Review: The Stars' Tennis Balls, by Stephen Fry

Every time I walk into the Mid-Manhattan Public Library, I walk out with at least one treasure. Sometimes it's something that I've planned and sometimes it's not. Often I'll have books waiting for me, but even then I make sure I stop in the fiction section. I walk into an unassuming row of books and snatch something down from a shelf--whatever catches my eye. I usually don't even check to see what it is until I'm at the check-out counter.

This time, it was Stephen Fry's The Stars' Tennis Balls (published by Hutchinson, a subsidiary of Random House which I thought would end up being some kind of ridiculous romp through Stephen Fry's ever-so-comedic-and-well-timed-mind. In a way, I was right. The prose smells of Fry's sometimes-grotesque humor. But it's also a frighteningly well-written adaptation of (of all things) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas pére. Now, I could not have known, looking at the color of the book or even the cover, or even reading the first 12 pages, that it was going to be an adaptation of one of the most brilliant pieces of literature ever undertaken (which also happens to be one of my most favored books). And yet, there it is. If I'd glanced at the back of the book, where the Literary Review comments were featured, I would have known immediately. It says right there "A Count of Monte Cristo for the dot.com generation...." But I didn't glance back there. I try to avoid it.

It wasn't until I got to about page 53, where Ned (Edmond) is on his sailboat that things started clicking. Up until that point, it had been a simple page turner. But suddenly I realized what I was wrapped up in. I remember being stuck on page 53 for about 10 minutes while I worked backwards, pulling names out of the text and figuring out where they fit in. If not brilliant, it's next to brilliant. And Fry respects the reader enough to not give him a bullshit ending. Everything happens in its turn and you cannot be dissatisfied with the ending. I'm not very eloquent so you can read someone who is, HERE