Stephan Lee
January 11, 2012 AT 05:00 AM EST

The beloved actor/comedian/author Stephen Fry, best known for Jeeves & Wooster, strikes a quintessentially British tone in his second volume of memoirs: He begins with an unnecessary apology for the ordinariness of his writing, and then proceeds to write masterfully, assessing himself with his signature blend of self-loathing and baffled amusement.

The Fry Chronicles picks up where Moab Is My Washpot — Fry’s memoir about his deeply troubled childhood and adolescence — left off. It covers the formative eight years in which he enrolled in Cambridge, came out of the closet, discovered acting, and encountered his first bit of fame. On the surface it resembles a conventional coming-of-age -narrative, full of name-dropping and charmingly rambling tangents, but it’s structured as an addiction memoir — the progression of his life is linked to the changing of his obsessive appetites. The high points of the book come when Fry writes about his feverish halcyon days in the Cambridge theater scene, when his addictions evolved from sugary cereal and cigarettes to Shakespearean acting and sketch comedy. Fans of The Cellar Tapes will devour anecdotes about Emma Thompson as a brilliant undergraduate ingenue and the beginnings of Fry’s iconic collaboration with a young Hugh Laurie.

Though Fry occasionally gets mired in faintly boastful, overly detailed descriptions of collegiate life or behind-the-scenes showbiz drama, the memoir stands as proof of the author’s intelligence, wit, and insight. The book ends on a surprising, curiously downbeat note as Fry introduces one final, considerably more serious addiction. While the conclusion is abrupt, it’s also welcome, since it leaves the door wide open for another volume in the Fry saga. A?

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