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Stuart : A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

Stuart : A Life Backwards

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

A 2011 World Book Night selection.

Read the endorsements on the cover and believe them, this is truly a tragic and unique biography. I love the style, right from the start you are caught up in this strange story and then I love the story itself. Although love is perhaps not the most appropriate word, for this is a tale of violence, crime, prison and alcohol as Alexander transcribes Stuart’s life – backwards. Funny, immensely sad and at times startling, it reads like fiction. Winner of the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award (won by Hilary Spurling’s brilliant Matisse), I urge you to try it.

A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher...

This extraordinary book – winner of the Guardian First Book Award and adapted into a BBC film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy – is a glimpse of the underbelly of English society, a world largely hidden from our lives. It is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer and illustrator (‘a middle class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander’) and a chaotic, knife-wielding beggar. Told backwards, it shows how Stuart changed from a happy-go-lucky little boy into a thief, addict, alcoholic and sociopath street raconteur. Funny, despairing, uplifting, brilliantly-written, it is one of the most original biographies of recent years.

Our Editorial Guru, Sarah Broadhurst, has suggested others book and authors that would be perfect for you to read next or to pass on the recommendation - so your gift will keep on giving enjoyment. Her selection for this title is: Lorna Sage(Bad Blood).

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Stuart : A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

Stuart, A Life Backwards, is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer and illustrator (‘a middle class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander) and a chaotic, knife-wielding beggar whom he gets to know during a campaign to release two charity workers from prison.

Interwoven into this is Stuart’s confession: the story of his life, told backwards. With humour, compassion (and exasperation) Masters slowly works back through post-office heists, prison riots and the exact day Stuart discovered violence, to unfold the reasons why he changed from a happy-go-lucky little boy into a polydrug-addicted-alcoholic Jekyll and Hyde personality, with a fondness for what he called ‘little strips of silver’ (knives to you and me).

Funny, despairing, brilliantly written and full of surprises: this is the most original and moving biography of recent years.


Unique and wonderful’ Daily Mail

‘This is a very rare and haunting book ... A great first book’ Andrew O'Hagan

'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

'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

'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

About the Author

Alexander Masters

Alexander Masters’ first book, Stuart: A Life Backwards, won the Guardian First Book Award, the Hawthornden Prize and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Biography Prize. Eighteen different newspapers and popular magazines chose it as Book of the Year. It was turned into a BBC film starring Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. Alexander lives in Sussex.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st February 2006


Alexander Masters

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Harpercollins Publishers


Paperback (b Format)
304 pages


Biography / Autobiography
The Real World
eBook Favourites

Biography: general
Housing & homelessness



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