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335 - Recommended Reading: Billy Liar


Rob Anderson (Standard British accent)

Billy Liar was written in the late ‘50s, I think, by Keith Waterhouse, and it’s a... a book about a young man who finds life difficult. He’s not happy, he feels himself different from other people, but he finds life confusing, maybe a bit frightening, and therefore he does two things: one, he lies all the time about who he is, and, second, he creates a fantasy world called Ambrosia, which he escapes to whenever things get a bit difficult for him, and in Ambrosia he’s always a general or a... or a hero, or... or something like that. Again, it’s a young... he’s a young character, I think, who finds the... the adult world a bit unsettling, a bit frightening, difficult to understand, and very confusing, I think, and that’s why he needs to escape and hide in the fantasy world of Ambrosia, or escape behind the lies that he tells everybody. There is... in... in... in... in his attempt to understand the world, as I say, he... he meets different people in different situations, and it’s always a disaster. There’s always... there’s always something he does wrong or something he says wrong, or one of his lies is... is found out. There is one character who doesn’t seem to mind too much about... about his lies and this a character called Liz, and although he has other girlfriends, you know, in fact he has two – they don’t know about each other – he has two girlfriends, one of which, I think, he promises to marry, if I remember rightly, Liz is the character who seems to not mind about his fantasies, not mind about the fact that he finds the world strange because it seems that she does too, and she offers him the chance to escape, to go to London with her, and to live together and presumably escape this... this... this uncertainty, this confusion. And the very last scene of the book is... he and Liz actually get on the train to London, it’s a night train, and they get on the train, and he says, “Oh, just a second, I must go and get some milk,” and he jumps off the train, and she notices that his suitcase was on the platform anyway, so he had no intention of going to London whatsoever, and the whistle blows and the train pulls out, and Liz is on the train and Billy Fisher is on the platform and he decides to stay, and it’s... it’s a wonderful book!

(Rob Anderson was talking to Mark Worden)