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Book/Movie recommendations. Stuart: A Life Backwards

The winner of the Guardian First Book Award that reinvented the biographic form.

Stuart: A Life Backwards broadened the scope of what a biography could be in terms of the narratives it could convey and the methods by which the author might achieve this. It is about a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer (‘a middle-class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander’), and Stuart Shorter, a thief, hostage-taker, psycho, and street raconteur.

Stuart's concept is to tell the story backwards, starting with a very disturbed thirty-two-year-old who runs out in front of the 11.15 train from London to King's Lynn, and ending with a twelve-year-old who is described as a "happy-go-lucky little boy." It is humorous, compassionate, and engrossing—just as remarkable and surprising as the life it portrays.

The book is available from Waterstones and Amazon priced at £9.99 (paperback).


‘Unique and wonderful.’ Daily Mail ‘Possibly the best biography I have ever read.’ Mark Haddon ‘This is a very rare and haunting book … A great first book.’ Andrew O'Hagan's good books like this appear about once every five years. It's been years since I've been so delighted by a book and so surprised by it … When I'd finished I felt bereft, as if I'd lost an old friend.' Zadie Smith ‘Utterly compelling and very funny.’ Daily Telegraph ‘One of the most remarkable and touching biographies I’ve ever read.’ Minette Marin, Sunday Times 'I feel so strongly about this strange, funny, sad book that I hardly know where to begin … My enthusiasm feels almost limitless. A page-turner.' Observer 'Funny and original, a startling book … By the end, I was doubled up in tears, but throughout I was often doubled up with laughter. It is dazzling.' Vogue 'A remarkable biography. Unforgettably moving. A gripping read.' Tim Lott, Sunday Times ‘A comedy of errors and horrors deftly handled and with a terrifically droll sense of humour.’ Melanie McGrath, Evening Standard 'With his first book, Alexander Masters … has achieved something remarkable. He has, without patronising, given a voice to the "underclass"; at the same time, without preaching, he shows us the value of even the most damaged of human lives … a powerful book, humane, instructive, and entirely original. Sunday Telegraph.

It's worth noting that the book was dramatised in 2007 starring a young Tom Hardy as the lead character who won a Bafta for his role, and Benedict Cumberbatch in one of his earliest screen appearances.

The screenplay, as with the novel, is both moving and harrowing in equal measure and gives an honest account of life on the streets and an insight into the causes that can lead an individual into homelessness.

Available from HMV online priced £5.99.

Link to trailer below:

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