Tuesday 17 August 2021

Backstories by Simon van der Velde | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received an eBook copy for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Backstories by Simon van der Velde - 5/5
Backstories – ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’ - is a collection of stories each told from the point of view of one of my personal heroes, (or villains) back when they were just another Jew or black, or queer – back when they were nobody. Bullied, assaulted or psychologically abused, their road to redemption was never easy, and for some there would be no redemption, only a descent into evil.

These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice - but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them - leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who's mind you've been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

This is probably one of the most interesting books I've ever read. It is a collection of short stories, each a backstory on a celebrity or famous figure. Although there are facts included, there has been a bit of creative licence used.

They are told in a way that we need to work out who the story is about with clues peppered in, like a nickname or quote. It is very clever and gives us just enough information to work the person out. I was able to get them all but I went straight to Google to double check - I never thought I'd ever search "What height is Paul Simon in feet?" The stories were sometimes funny, sometimes serious and some made me a little shocked.

I don't want to give too much away because Backstories is such an entertaining read and everyone should give it a go! I loved the concept and the author wasn't afraid to shy away from harder topics.

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