Ned Maddstone has it all. He's handsome and talented; he has the love of a beautiful woman and in 1980, he stands at the brink of a glittering future. He rounds off an outstanding public school career with a sailing trip to Scotland, which is where his fortunes enter a terrifying tailspin. Determined to honour the dying wish of his sailing instructor, Ned returns to London, where the schemes of jealous classmates catapult him into a 10-year nightmare. Confined to a solitary Hell, believed dead by all those who loved him, Ned transforms from a terminally nice guy into a creature bent on revenge, a revenge both satisfying and apocalyptic. Few writers can deliver so much in one package, but here Stephen Fry combines a riotous satire of the privileged classes with elements of the darkest thrillers. While the plot bounces from the sublime to the surreal, his characters remain acutely real. Ned's classmates, slow-witted hedonist Rufus Cade, and the Machiavellian climber Ashley Barson-Garland – who is aroused by the sight of straw boaters – are masterful creations. This novel has nothing to do with tennis, and everything to do with the cruel logic of Fate. Game, set and match to Mr Fry. – Matthew Baylis
"'Stephen Fry is one of the great originals… This autobiography of his first twenty years is a pleasure to read, mixing outrageous acts with sensible opinions in bewildering confusion… That so much outward charm, self-awareness and intellect should exist alongside behaviour that threatened to ruin the lives of innocent victims, noble parents and Fry himself, gives the book a tragic grandeur and lifts it to classic status.' Financial Times; 'A remarkable, perhaps even unique, exercise in autobiography… that aroma of authenticity that is the point of all great autobiographies; of which this, I rather think, is one' Evening Standard; 'He writes superbly about his family, about his homosexuality, about the agonies of childhood… some of his bursts of simile take the breath away… his most satisfying and appealing book so far' Observer"