Stephen Fry's first novel. Very loosely autobiographical (see Moab is My Washpot for his real autobiography) based his experiences at Cambridge, which expelled him, and in public school. Like most novels about British public schools (and most of Fry's novels), this novel contains an element (or two, or three) of homosexuality.

The protagonist is an ex-hustler and thief who has slid his way through school and life, and gets caught by a professor when he plagiarzes a term paper. The professor challenges him to create a single original piece of work, and catapults him into a network of espionage (the novel is set during the Cold War), which reminded me a bit of John Fowles' novel the Magus.

Like most of Fry's novels, this was a bestseller in the United Kingdom, and I highly recommend it. Fry is witty, intelligent, and has an outstanding perspective on life that permeates his writing. I preferred the Hippopotamus, but this is also an oustanding read.