Thursday 25 March 2021

Backstories - Simon Van der Velde

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


Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

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.

What did I think?

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Backstories but the magic was really revealed when I read an excerpt from the book.  In this ingenious concept, Simon Van der Velde peels back the outer layers of famous people and enables the reader to get under their skin and inside their minds to the real person beneath.  It's the mark of a talented writer when each short story has their own unique voice shining through; it's almost as if the personality of each particular character has been supernaturally summoned from beyond the grave.  

There are 14 stories in the book and their subjects range from people from history to rock stars and everything in between; Simon Van der Velde's imagination knows no bounds.  I loved the incredible variety of characters which meant that I recognised some quite quickly, some right at the end and others I had to google.  This book is almost interactive as it sends readers off on a treasure hunt to collect clues in the story then on to google to decipher them.  No matter which story I was reading, the incredible moment of recognition either made me gasp out loud or made my eyebrows attempt to disappear into my hairline; it's a truly astonishing book.

Backstories is so unique that it's impossible to categorise; it covers history, mystery, music and crime (among others) but mostly, it's a kind of magic.  It's definitely the most fun I've ever had with a book and I'm completely hooked.  The stories are quite short so you can either read it in one go, like I did, or choose to dip in and out at your leisure (if you can put it down once you do so, of course).  Even though I've now identified all of the people, I definitely want to read it again.

Unique, astonishing and ingenious, Backstories is the most engaging and entertaining book I have ever read.  Encompassing so many genres, it will appeal to all readers and it is so unusual that it would be the perfect gift for that hard to buy for person; I feel like I want to buy it for everyone I know!  A definite 5 star read and a highly recommended book.  It's an absolute must read!

Many thanks to Simon Van der Velde for sending me an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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