Genres: Literary fiction, short stories, biographical fiction, mystery, contemporary fiction, recent cultural history.
Themes: Diversity, nostalgia, music, crime, social justice.
Dreamers, singers, talkers and killers:they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, but inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?
These are people you know, but not as you know them.
Peel back the mask and see.
Backstories is a unique collection of stories each told from the point of view of a famous, (or notorious) person at a pivotal moment in their lives. The writing is literary but accessible and the voices vividly real. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, and the driving themes are inclusion, social justice and of course, nostalgia – but the real key to these stories is that the protagonists’ identities are withheld. 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.
This is a book that I can honestly say I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not a great lover of short stories, I don’t know why that is, but I appreciate that sometimes a short story can be harder to write than a novel, restricting yourself to x amount of words is something I have never been good at, I was always getting into trouble at college and university having to chop so many words out of my work.
But this is something completely different. I picked it up at midnight, I had just finished reading another book and being an insomniac I wondered what to read next and thought perfect a chapter or two of this book would be just right. Except I didn’t stop at one or two I think I read about six. Challenging myself each time to try and guess who the story was about before I reached the end of it and was possibly given the clue as to who it was.
So let me explain, what the author has cleverly done is to take some biographical points of view, from someone famous or notorious, being of a certain age I knew most of the protagonists, but it’s not just about that person, the writing reads as you would expect them to tell it. Presumably in the way they would have spoken, by that I mean the accents come out within the telling of stories, it’s surprising how much you can actually pick up from the voices as you read them. There are a total of 14 stories or backstories as they are called, out of those 14 I managed to get 12 without asking anyone else or looking up on the internet. How many can you get? After reading this once, I did find myself going in and reading it a second time, savouring the writing that I was more focused on guessing who it was about the first time reading. Second time is all about really reading how well crafted this book is.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, and challenged my friend to see if he knew who each one was, I thought he would get number one earlier than I did but I had it well before he reached a point where it is practically telling you who the person is or was in some cases.
If you are looking for a different sort of quick read, something you could sit down with as a group of friends and try and guess the person being about then grab a copy of this, one comment from a friend was the book wasn’t long enough, but then isn’t that good to leave a reader wanting more?
This was definitely a different type of read for me, a pleasant read, even though some may be of a dark nature. Engaging, engrossing, entertaining is all I can say really.
A 5⭐️ read for me, I would like to thank SimonVan Der Velde for sending me an ARC of this book. All opinions and views are my own and in my own words.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, labourer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as travelling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters and insights for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction)
in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri
New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Short- story Prize, The Harry Bowling Prize, The Henshaw Press Short Story Competition and The National Association of Writers’ Groups Open Competition – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.
Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, Nicola, their labradoodle, Barney and two tyrannical children.
Social Media Links: