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Stuart: A Life Backwards

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  2,196 ratings  ·  282 reviews
A unique biography of a homeless man and a complete portrait of the hidden underclass. 'So here it is, my attempt at the story of Stuart Shorter, thief, hostage taker, psycho and sociopath street raconteur, my spy on how the British chaotic underclass spend their troubled days at the beginning of this century: a man with an important life. I wish I could have presented it ...more
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published January 1st 2005 by Fourth Estate (GB) (first published 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Belle
Nov 17, 2012 Belle rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: You! Yes, you. Read this. It's amazing.

I don't even know how to begin reviewing Stuart: A life Backwards. Well, I guess I should start at the beginning - which, of course, is actually the end of Stuart's story. Don't worry, it's not as confusing as it sounds. The book opens with Stuart Shorter, an "ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath", telling the author of his biography, Alexander Masters, that it's "bollocks boring". Alexander, having worked on the manuscript in question for years, is understandably frustrated, and questions Stuart's
...more
Paul
A beautiful dog, some kind of retriever probably, had a litter of puppies, every one of them a golden ball of pure joy, and this directly led to the deaths of three people in Oxford, that famous university town in England, some years ago. The people were homeless, and it's a known fact that homeless people love their dogs, because their dogs are their family. And plus, a dog will keep you warm at night. And especially they loved these little puppies and were thrilled when the owner of the puppie ...more
Lucy
I’ve just finished this book, and honestly I’m so ineloquent with words I’m not going to even try and write a proper review, I could never do it any justice or hope to explain all the little thoughts about life it made me have - but I want everyone to read it.

It was incredibly sad, insightful, funny, heart warming and disturbing. I know Stuart had done some terrible things in his short life, that he was incredibly damaged but I thought he was also extremely charismatic and intellegent, a beautif
...more
liz
So all of the praise on the jacket seems to involve people falling over themselves. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And not that I don't get it. It's just that, well... it's not that kind of a book. Stuart is a homeless guy... except he's not, when we meet him. Who's mentally ill... except he's doing okay, when we meet him. Who's been in prison countless times. Who the system failed... except it didn't, because somebody who wasn't himself had to get him out of that parking garage. Stu ...more
minnie
Jan 07, 2008 minnie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
This biography tells the life story of Stuart Shorter, a homeless knife wielding nutter, from the present back to his childhood, to explain how he went from being a happy go lucky little boy to a homeless drug addict. I loved this book, but read it with a sense of foreboding, knowing that it was going to go back to some horrible events in his childhood , and it does. The book jumps back and forth quite a bit, some of it is funny as Stuart tells of his various stints in prisons all over England, ...more
Elisa
Questo libro mi serviva proprio. E dire che l'ho scelto per il pozzo letterario di gennaio solamente perché il film che è stato prodotto dopo l'uscita di Stuart ha come attore Benedict Cumberbatch.
Non avevo idea di che cosa parlasse. Non avevo idea che fosse una storia vera.
Questo libro mi ha tirato uno schiaffo, mi ha svegliato via, mi ha tirato addosso una vagonata di realtà, quale non ne avevo mai visto prima.
Stuart: una vita al contrario narra la storia a partire dalla fine di Stuart, un tre
...more
Jordan
"Stuart: A Life Backwards," the biography of a Cambridge homeless man could also go by the title "Stuart: A Life Unanswered." Alexander Masters, or as his subject Stuart Shorter calls him, "middle class c***," narrates the life story of a man most of us would literally step over on the street, with no overt solution on how he may be rescued from his semi-chosen state. Unlike most of biographical heroes, Stuart's life isn't notable for what he's done, but more for the continuously terrible things ...more
Sian Wadey
Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

When I found out that this was one of the 25 books I had won from Booka I was really excited. I'd seen the film and absolutley loved it thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy. It hadn't taken me long to love Stuart. When I started the book I felt that same tone. Despite the potentially depressing subject matter I found myself smiling at what Stuart said and I was eager to read the next chapter. Unlike most biographies there was real humour and w
...more
Sophie
I'm not usually the sort of person to read biographies, but this just captivated me. From this book I have learned so much about the lives of people like stuart, who we alienate from society so much. That alone should be a good reason for anyone to read this book. Stuart is a great person: logical, clever and funny, and it's enjoyable to 'be' around him in this book, which makes me all the more sympathetic towards his situation and life's events, which have stopped him from being and excellent p ...more
Bookmaniac70
Apr 07, 2008 Bookmaniac70 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bookmaniac70 by: JPix
It was an unusual book. The phenomenon of homelessness has been always a mystery to me;I have been always asking myself how it happens,is it only poverty or something else; why people used to living in the streets,cannot return their lives to normal even if given the opportunity? The book says a lot about all these things but also,it doesn`t and can`t answer all the questions.

First of all,"Stuart" is a precious document of a human life. It is also a valuable document on how homeless people thin
...more
Sarah Watt
Aug 14, 2007 Sarah Watt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literally everyone
This is a highly original and captivating memoir which has captured the hearts of readers everywhere. "Stuart, A Life Backwards", is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer and illustrator ('a middle class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander') and a chaotic, knife-wielding beggar whom he gets to know during a campaign to release two charity workers from prison. Interwoven into this, is Stuart's confession: the story of his life, told backwards. With h ...more
Jill
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ramorx
A social worker gets paid to be friends with a social basket case and then writes a novel about him. Ethical depravity.
S. Wilson
Stuart, the focus of Alexander Masters' book, is as enigmatic and polarizing as real people tend to get. There is a reason that Masters introduces us to Stuart now, rather than beginning at the childhood that spawned this creature.

Stuart is akin to a horrific train wreck that you can not tear your eyes away from; he is scary and depressing, repulsive and untantalizing, yet somehow silumtaneously mesmerizing and endearing. You wouldn't want to share an elevator or a dark alley with this character
...more
Cynthea
i hated this book. i gave it TWO stars, because well, stuart and alexander shouldn't be punished because i work in the social services field w/ mentally ill chemically addicted offenders. it is a tough book to read - it is not funny (or, at least i didn't find it funny anywhere as other reviewers have), the lack of any british slang translation makes other things really difficult, and i mean come on, how much of a train wreck of a life can you read without getting really depressed?

i work with th
...more
Zoë Clapperton
The story of Stuart Shorter is the story of a person nobody wants to know- the homeless 'nutter', the beggar, the addict, the offender. Nobody that is, except, for reasons that aren't at first clear even to him, Alexander Masters, a hostel worker who stumbles across Stuart begging in Cambridge. Their relationship is unique in literature, one is an illiterate yob and the other is an ex-boarding-school pupil and do-gooder. Somehow they immediately connect and as their touching relationship unfolds ...more
Tara Wood
I will admit, I saw the film first. Benedict Cumberbatch. ‘Nuff said. But I was so captivated by the story of Stuart Shorter and his subsequent portrayal by Tom Hardy (he was ace!), that I had to read the book.

This is a wonderful book. Alexander Masters captures the essence of Stuart in a way that is compelling and heartbreaking all at the same time. It is the story of a young man so embroiled in pain and tragedy, yet has such a profound outlook on life. I ached for Stuart, Alexander, and Stuart
...more
JustJayneIA
Having spent most of my life working in the human services field, this book really gave me a lot to think about. Then again, it would have done that no matter what. For years I tried so hard not to let myself become jaded or cynical about the clients I worked with, realizing that the behavior I witnessed and the personal details I knew about probably only scratched the surfaces of the sum total of their lives' experiences (full admission: ultimately, I failed). This book delves deep beneath surf ...more
Mark Glover
A very moving accurate and unromanticised view of the issue of homelessness, addiction and mental illness, Masters achieves something quite rare in confronting the inherent tragedy of these issues without glossing over the real life choices that led to Stuart's dilemma. There is seemingly a whole industry spawned from tragic life stories and those that have overcome great difficulties to simply have a normal existence but what Masters achieves through his telling of Stuart's story is highlight t ...more
Kirsten

I would urge most people I know to read this book. It was not new to me that people who go through abuse and difficult childhoods have a tendance to become pretty messed-up adults. However this book showed day-to-day details, a specific individual story, and gave - finally - a face to it. It made me hate humans and what they are capable of but then again I'm a cynical bastard so I always have done anyway. It was also personally interesting for me that this whole story took place in a town at a t
...more
Leslie
Have you ever walked past a street person and wondered how he or she got there? Every one of them has a story, but it's a story we'd rather ignore, just as we'd rather ignore them. Masters gives us the story of one man and, through it, a glimpse into a damaged life. Stuart is appallingly damaged, and the explanation for how he got to where he ended up--addicted to multiple substances, chaotic, unstable, violent, and unpredictable--is sad and awful. Masters does not romanticise Stuart or show him ...more
Suzanne
"Write it like a murder mystery...What killed the boy I was?" That's what Stuart Shorter asked, and that's what Alexander Masters did. Psychopath, activist, junkie, Stuart's life is at turns harrowing and darkly comic. Masters does not romanticize Stuart's personality or actions. Over the course of the years they spent working on Shorter's life story, Masters often reaches a point of exasperation with his friend, but each time this happens, he is confronted by the fallibility of his own assumpti ...more
Julie
The more you read this true story the easier it is to engage with and more importantly to identify with and engage with the character of Stuart. This book truly unifies the process of how one little boy could end up growing up to living in such a chaotic lifestyle. Progressing through the book builds a darker and darker picture to trace the origins of where the chaos began. At which point the reader is able to understand what lies in the chasm of human experience that ultimately leads to the mak ...more
Mitzi
I think I was expecting a different type of book. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood, but I could never fully get into the life of Stuart, a homeless man in England. Masters writes Stuart's life backwards as a sort of mystery to figure out how Sturart ended up on the streets. That was actually Stuart's idea, and the best idea of the whole book. The rest seems sort of rambling, too much about Masters trying to write the book, and in the end, what makes Stuart homeless is pretty much what you'd ex ...more
Sharon Thomson
Not a book that you would expect to be 'enjoyable', but it was a very interesting and eye-opening read.
This book is a biography of Stuart Shorter, a drug-taking, 'homeless', muscular dystrophy sufferer. Again not the expected makings of a good book.
Under instruction from Stuart, Alexander Masters retells Stuart's life in reverse order. This is actually the best way to tell Stuart's story. You see how he is when the story is written and by working backwards you see how he got there.
At the start o
...more
Connor
Stuart Shorter was an ex-junkie, (ex-)psychopath, ex-homeless, and relatively unknown in the grand scheme of things. Yet Alexander Masters was still entirely correct in thinking that Stuart's story was a story worth telling. With the bizarre structure of starting the book at the end of the story, which isn't actually as confusing as it sounds, the reader is sent on a journey through the life of a chaotic in the heart of Cambridge, England. For so many horrific things that have taken place at Stu ...more
Kayla
A fantastic, dark book that explores the story of one man named Stuart and his descent into homelessness, only the story is told in reverse order. Difficult to read at times, hard to understand his life choices at others. At some points you want to take him into your hands yourself and shake sense into him; at others you want to hold him and tell him everything will be alright. I really enjoyed how my emotions matched up with the authors at certain points in the book, because we are all thinking ...more
Kiwiflora
Homeless people - part of the furniture in the streets of any large city - easy to move around, to ignore, and to have little to wonder about. Generally we don't know why a person becomes a homeless person, and if we care enough to find out, we are presented with what is usually a very complicated and hopeless set of circumstances that make it very easy to turn that blind eye at.

The author, Alexander Masters, started out in life as an academic at Cambridge, studying maths and physics. While stu
...more
Rida
It makes me infinitely sad and sorry and angry to see people treat this book as merely an artistic work of literature that is to be commended or highly praised, rather than consider its true subject: the man Stuart; and appreciate Stuart, and empathise with and genuinely care for Stuart, and all the Stuarts of the world. Stuart wasn't a poet or a politician, nor was he a scientist; he was nobody of any importance, in short, in the worldly sense of things. You learn as you trudge through the page ...more
Lisa
The very tragic story of a man plagued by mental illness. He was in and out of social community programs and jail.
It tells of this fucked up Everyman, the cards of life always stacked against him. Troubles on the street and the travesty of the justice system embroider his scarred psyche. His sad life is showcased: the violence, the drugs, the perpetual abuse. It is gritty and real,touched with tenderness and hopelessness. However, I was not wowed. I should have been. The book had what it needed
...more
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Alexander Masters is an author and screenwriter. He is the son of authors Dexter Masters and Joan Brady.
More about Alexander Masters...
The Genius in My Basement The People of the Abyss The Platform of Time Gary's Friends

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“Ruth once told me when I went to visit her at HMP Highpoint that it is surprising how much of what you imagine to be your innate sense of self actually comes from things that aren't one's self at all: people's reactions to the blouse you wear, the respectfulness of your family, the attentiveness of your friends, their approval of the pictures in your living room, the neatness of your lawn, the way people whisper your name. It is these exhibitions of yourself, as reflected in the people whom you meet, which give you comfort and your identity. Take them away, be put in a tiny room, and called by a number, and you begin to vanish.” 9 likes
“I don't know, Alexander, sometimes it gets so bad you can't think of nothing better to do than make it worse.” 8 likes
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