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Billy Liar

Billy Liar - Keith Waterhouse I invite you to enter the kingdom of Ambrosia - a fantasy land invented by its beloved President: Billy Fisher, in order to escape from the boring Yorkshire town of Stradhoughton in the 1950's. Billy is a compulsive liar - no, that's too harsh, he's a compulsive fantasist. Not so much an angry young man, as a feckless one - and this book chronicles the events of one fateful Saturday during which all of Billy's lies begin to catch up with him. As well as daydreaming the day away in his beloved Ambrosia, he spends most of his time thinking. Billy has two types of thinking: No.1 thinking which is deliberate, and controlled; and No.2 thinking which consists of obsessive speculation about all the what-if's of life, and to be avoided. "You want to make up your mind what you do want to do" his mother tells him (how many of us have heard that before!) Of course, like all lazy sods, what he wants to be is a scriptwriter. And this dream is, supposedly, on the verge of being fulfilled - comedian Danny Boon has written to Billy offering him a job down in London. Yeah, right. The other one's got bells on Billy! Billy is "just about thraiped wi' Stradhoughton" He tells everyone that he is off to London. But when he tries to resign from his job as an undertaker's clerk - a job he is dying to leave of course, there is a complication: the small matter of some calendars he was supposed to post nine months earlier. Like a lazy postmen hiding mail in his shed because he can't be bothered to do his rounds, Billy has stashed them all under his bed and embezzled the postage money. His hopeless attempts at getting rid of the calendars - by trying to flush them down the loo at work, for example - are comical. And then there is his love life... He manages to sabotage his engagement to Barbara (aka "The Witch") by borrowing her engagement ring, supposedly to take it to the jeweller's "to be adjusted", and giving it to his other girlfriend Rita! Oh, and then there's Liz as well... His habitual embroidery of the truth, has left him tangled in a web of pointless lies. He has told: - fiancee Barbara that his dad is a sea-captain. - fiancee Rita that his dad is a cobbler (cobblers is he!) - fiancee Barbara that he has a budgie called Roger. - his pal Arthur's mother about his non-existent sister Sheila. - his own mother that Arthur's mother has a broken leg. Most of all I love the brilliantly realistic description of a northern working class family of the time, and it is riddled with those wonderfully colourful expressions that punctuated my own childhood, like:- "Oo hark at Lord Muck!" "If I come up there you'll know about it!" "I'll clean shirt him round his bloody earhole!" {Adapted from a review originally posted on dooyoo.co.uk on May 18th, 2001}