Book Review – Stuart: A Life Backwards

This is a book I have had on my shelf for a number of years but for some reason I never got around to reading it (till now of course). I bought the book after watching the film as the story really interested me. I can’t say I remember the film any more so reading this book was like coming to Stuart’s story new – and it didn’t disappoint.

StuartBlurb:  ‘Stuart does not like the manuscript. He’s after a bestseller, “like what Tom Clancy writes”. “But you are not an assassin trying to frazzle the president with anthrax bombs,” I point out. You are an ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath, I do not add.’

This is the story of 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 homeless, knife-wielding thief. Told backwards – Stuart’s idea – it starts with a deeply troubled thirty-two-year-old and ends with a ‘happy-go-lucky little boy’ of twelve. This brilliant biography, winner of the Guardian First Book Award, presents a humbling portrait of homeless life, and is as extraordinary and unexpected as the man it describes.

Rating:  5/5

My thoughts: This is a very powerful story of the life of a very complicated man.  I really loved the honesty in this book, not just from the author, but also Stuart’s own honesty about himself, he knew he was mixed up, dangerous (at times) and a mess (most of the time) but he never pretends to be anything other than what he is.

There is a great sadness in this book as well, despite being homeless (at times, often by choice) and a drug addict there is clearly a lot of intelligence and, given different circumstances, Stuart could have achieved a much better life.

This is certainly a book well worth reading. Stuart’s story stays with you long after the final page is turned.