Thank you to Simon for a digital review copy of his book to read and review in return for an honest review.
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.
Initially the stunning cover design and the synopsis grabbed my interest in this book. I was also encouraged to read this by the review by one of my favourite book bloggers, Linda Hill.
This is a short book, full of short stories, each containing a ‘famous’ or ‘infamous’ person who isn’t identified to the reader at the beginning of the story. As each story evolved, we were taken to different locations and different periods in time, almost as if we had hopped on the TARDIS but without Doctor Who to guide us. Simon’s use of language brought each time period and person to life vividly.
Some identities I guessed before the end of the story, some I discovered due to the very last sentence of the story and a couple I had to resort to Google for.
I enjoyed the majority of stories, but did find a couple of them more dark than the sort of story I would normally choose to read. Definitely not one to share with a young teenager would be my advice.
It is also important to point out that Simon is donating some of his profits from the sale of the book to charity. He is sharing 30% of all profits from Backstories between Stop Hate UK, The North-East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.
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.