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Stuart: A Life Backwards

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,298 Ratings  ·  377 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)
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Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: You! Yes, you. Read this. It's amazing.
Excuse me while I go pick up the broken pieces of my shattered heart from the floor.
Paul Bryant
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
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Oct 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Sally Green
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't read a lot of biographies and I picked this book up on a whim a few days ago when I was filling in time browsing in the bookshop because I was early for my hairdresser appointment. I bought the book because of the opening page, which I read in the shop. Hair done, magazines read, holiday's discussed (not really), I went home and ignored my teetering 'to read' pile and got stuck into 'Stuart' because of page 6. Basically, if you like pages 1 to 6 of this book then you'll like the rest. I ...more
Mark Glover
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexander Masters presents a riveting and humanizing portrait of Stuart Shorter, aka “Psycho,” an off-again/on-again homeless Brit, an ex-convict, a former junkie, alcoholic, and an all-around decent and forgivable human being. As the subtitle explains, Masters tells Shorter’s biography backward, explaining with heartbreaking detail the chapters of Shorter’s unhappy and unlucky life and the circumstances that brought them together. The little illustrations (presumably by Masters?) and reproducti ...more
Tara Wood
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sarah Watt
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jo Woolfardis
[Quick review from memory before I re-read and re-review at a later date]

(Oh my goodness. I remember almost everything about this book and I can feel within my bones that it will never not be a five star book. A definite re-read but when I couldn't say. So sad, so beautiful, so ridiculous. So human. So stupid. So absolutely everything. I just wish I could remember whether I saw the adaptation first or read the book first. I imagine it was the former, since I never read real-life inspired works,
Oct 30, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: fiction
It's very very rare that I will start a book and not finish it, but this is one of those books. I just couldn't get into it. The narrator's voice is kind of engaging, but I was bored to tears reading this and finally just gave up.
Dec 14, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A social worker gets paid to be friends with a social basket case and then writes a novel about him. Ethical depravity.
Tess Kermode
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written like no other book I have read, backwards. Insightful, but also heartbreaking. Not a page turner but a must read
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fi Silk
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Warm, human, insightful, funny, disturbing and probably all the stuff on the back cover. Truly a book that changes your view on life.
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brit-lit, non-fiction
"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
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, although it is hard to say why. This sad, funny, weird book was eye opening and brilliantly written, full of compassion, humanity and brutal honesty. It sounds like a hard sell - the biography of a disabled, alcoholic, psychotic, drug addicted man who is patently unlikable at times, but I urge you to try it.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's hard for me to write a review for this book. I saw the film first and it immediately stuck with me. The tone of the film, the casting and the acting, its bittersweet aspect. I knew that I had to read the book and I had the feeling that I would love it no matter what.
When I finally came round to reading it, I didn't regret it for one moment.
Masters did well to listen to Stuart's advice on how to structure his story. The whodunnit approach works perfectly when it comes to narrating someone's
S. Wilson
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Oct 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is by no means an easy read. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a true story about a real person because the truths of Stuart's past are so disturbing I didn't want them to be real. But happen they did and as shocking as they are they affected Stuart's entire life. This book did make me think about my own life and how naive my view of the world may be because I, like many others, have never suffered in the way Stuart has. But then again, no one should have to.

The lightness amongst
Zoë Clapperton
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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...
“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.” 14 likes
“I don't know, Alexander, sometimes it gets so bad you can't think of nothing better to do than make it worse.” 14 likes
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