Customer Reviews


104 Reviews
5 star:
 (67)
4 star:
 (20)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


274 of 280 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly outstanding, original book
Tne 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...
Published on 15 Mar 2006

versus
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it just me...?
I was given a copy of 'Stuart' on World Book Night, and I really, really wanted it to be as brilliant as people said it was. But the truth is, I was ready to abandon it half-way through.

It wasn't the writing (which I thought was good) or the structure (although for me, it didn't quite work, despite the 'life backwards' idea being a very good one). What got to...
Published on 20 Mar 2011 by Daisy Wang


‹ Previous | 1 211 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

274 of 280 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly outstanding, original book, 15 Mar 2006
By A Customer
Tne 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 and Stuart's life is rewound, you realise that this nutter is a truly amazing human being. His biographer brings him to life so brilliantly it is impossible not to howl (mentally at least) with laughter at their adventures at the Home Office, Stuart's incisive insights, and then at the agony of the inevitable tragedies. Brilliant, buy it, be moved and then wonder how much potential is in all those homeless 'scum' asking for change from downtrodden commuters on their way to and from work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important insight into an unknown and misunderstood world, 17 May 2006
By 
K. Edmonds (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you pick up this book and read the many, many comments and rave reviews, you'll see that this book is a must read this year.

This is the story of Stuart, a chronic homeless man who from an early age has sniffed glue, done heroin, abused booze, been abused, been to prison... you name it and it probably has happened to him. It is almost as much a story about the author as it is about Stuart, detailing their relationship and the troubles Alexander Masters has putting Stuarts life down on paper.

And that is what makes this book worth a read - there are no clear answers, no solutions and no holds barred, just like in life itself. Stuart himself asked Alexander to write the book backwards, from his present life back to when he was a young boy and when he 'first discovered violence'. This could have been more effective if countless to-ing and fro-ing between the present and the past had been avioded but i think the author felt it important to convey the mixed up nature of Stuart's world.

If you want to open your mind and take in the account of one man who has had had a traumatic life and understandably has had difficulty coming to terms with what has happened to him, then this is your book. We see homeless people everyday but never stop to think about who they are and why they are there. We judge them instantly and avoid contact with them because they remind us of the dark side of society.

It's easier to think of homeless people as 'dangerous others' who desearve what they have got and could change their circumstances if they tried - Stuart will change this for you and put a real story and a real face to this group of unfortunate people.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing insight into the life of Stuart Shorter..., 6 Mar 2006
By A Customer
I have just finished reading this book and am deeply moved by it. The story of Stuart, a homeless, rage filled man is brilliantly captured by the author, and certainly leaves you thinking. Even reading some of the awful things Stuart has done, you are still left feeling that he is someone you would want to get to know. The conclusion is emotional, and made me feel lost for words. Well worth the read - I couldn't put it down.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 24 April 2005
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the biography of a person you've never heard of - a strange but compelling idea. Alexander Masters takes as his subject career criminal Stuart Shorter, and traces his development from grave to cradle, so to speak. In the process he highlights some of the ways that criminality escalates and proliferates: Stuart, a sometime heroin addict and surging muddle of violence, is a chaotic and difficult person, with serious convictions to his name (five years for raiding a post office, for example), but he emerges as a victim of the inadequate criminal justice system, of childhood trauma and of a neglectful educational system. In fact, Stuart, whom Masters paints warts and all, is oddly likeable. This makes the story of his ill-directed life a tragic one, and it's a powerful and timely story too. Moreover, Masters writes in a distinctive and intelligent way; he's not afraid to say things that fly in the face of political correctness, and he's not afraid to show his occasional disgust with Stuart's excesses, but this is a poignant and compassionate book, which deserves to reach a wide audience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece by Alexander Masters!, 18 May 2005
Alexander Masters has written a very gripping biography - one that almost reads as a novel. An extraordinary friendship develops between Masters, a Cambridge academic, and Stuart, a chaotic, knife-wedding beggar, when the two of them are involved in a campaign to release two charity workers from prison. Masters relates Stuart's life backwards in an attempt to discover how a happy-go-lucky little boy turns into a polydrug-addicted-alcoholic Jekyll and Hyde personality.
Stuart: A Life Backwards not only makes the reader acutely aware of the failings of society but also sense the despair of those who try to make a difference. Masters intelligently and humorously portrays Stuart's life in such a way that one cannot help but like the ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath.
Having lived in Cambridge myself during the time of Masters's and Stuart's friendship, I am ashamed to admit that I was blissfully unaware of people like Stuart who made those same streets I walked along their home. For anyone who wishes to have their eyes opened, I highly recommend Stuart: A Life Backwards.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


100 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb !, 27 Feb 2006
By 
Margaret L. Voss "Ven" (Wales U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In my opinion this book is an absolute must read. It is a beautifully written, insightful, tragic and yet often humorous account of an dysfunctional life . The Authors reverse journey through the story of Stuart Shorter is one of the most compelling tales I have ever read. Within Twenty minutes of picking this book up I was hooked. At it's conclusion I cried. Brilliant !
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please read this book!, 31 Oct 2006
By 
Andrew Walker "Andrew Walker" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
You CAN judge a book by its cover, can't you - we do it all the time in bookshops and libraries, and one glance at the cover of this would have told me this was not the book for me. How wrong I would have been. I had the good fortune to hear it first, being serialised on Radio 4 and was hooked.

The author is a Cambridge academic working as a volunteer in a hostel for society's outcasts, which doesn't sound promising, but at a meeting to plan a campaign against an injustice a homeless man, Stuart Slater, comes to his attention and Masters decides to write Stuart's life story. The chemistry of the book comes from this "Odd Couple" aspect, because Masters, the author, is very much a part of the story so he does not write this as a traditional biography. Rather he gives us accounts of conversations he has with Stuart, trying to understand why he did things (and didn't do others), visiting places, even having Masters sleep on a pavement outside the Home Office as a protest.

The story he tells is of life from (for most readers of this review) a parallel universe we dimly perceive exists through Big Issue sellers, etc but we do not know or understand. Stuart has a chaotic life, rarely living in one place for more than a year, with broken relationships, a long-sufferign family, repeated criminal offences, veins full of every chameical on the banned list and a long-suffering family.

Masters is honest about Stuart - he is fascinated, worried (at least initially) he might steal from him, sometimes Stuart drives him mad with his incessant talking, and a sleep-deprived Masters even wishes his subject was dead at one point! More thought provoking are Stuart's reactions to Masters' early drafts and his search for a neat explanation that will neatly tidy up all Stuart's problems.

Masters is our voice, trying to find how Stuart became what he is - an intelligent and perceptive man living outside normal society, driven to self-destruction, through psychological forces Masters struggles to understand.

It works so brilliantly because we meet Stuart at his best - lucid, rational, insightful - and he is very likeable. Masters makes clear others have met him at his aggressive irrational worst, nicknamed "Psycho", but you can tolerate this side to Stuart because you know there is better in him. God knows what I would have thought if I had to live next door to him!

It is Stuart's idea to tell his story starting with him aged 30 and going backwards, peeling back the layers of the onion - it is like archaeology mixed with psychology, and the best analogy I can give you is the style of TV's Louis Theroux making a programme about an individual, almost living with them for days or weeks, trying to find a key to them, becoming part of the story but never overshadowing the subject.

So, please don't think this might not be the book for you - don't worry that it is going to be an apology or cod psychology about a life of crime. It is about a human being in extreme adversity and a human being that through the author's skill you come to care about despite the truly horrible things they do and the truly horrible things that are done to them. Unusual and engrossing this will challenge your preconceived views, move you and leave you thinking for a long time afterwards - absolutely excellent.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stuart a Life Backwards, 28 Jan 2006
For me “Stuart A life Backwards” was one of the literary highlights of 2005 and was the much deserved winner of the Guardian First Book Award. It is the story of a violent, anti-social drug addict with severe mental health problems, in many ways the ultimate anti-hero. Combining humour and tragedy in equal measure the writer Alexander Masters asks us to step back from our fear and distaste of Stuart (and others like him) and to consider the reasons for his dysfunctional behaviour.
What is most impressive about this book is that it seems so effortlessly written, while it also represents such an innovative approach to the biographical structure you wonder why all biography isn’t written this way.
It is starkly honest, funny and moving but masterfully avoids becoming just another worthy examination of one of society’s less fortunate. As a result its power to challenge your judgement of others is incredibly affecting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it just me...?, 20 Mar 2011
By 
I was given a copy of 'Stuart' on World Book Night, and I really, really wanted it to be as brilliant as people said it was. But the truth is, I was ready to abandon it half-way through.

It wasn't the writing (which I thought was good) or the structure (although for me, it didn't quite work, despite the 'life backwards' idea being a very good one). What got to me was the grim hopelessness of Stuart's situation, and - shoot me down in flames - Stuart's barely disguised pride in his dysfunctional and violent behaviour.

Don't get me wrong here. I empathised with poor Stuart - who wouldn't? Yet all victims of abuse don't follow Stuart's path. Many rise from the ashes, and make lives for themselves. But the book - or more accurately, Stuart's life - depressed me from the earliest pages, to the point where I found it hard to pick it up, and read on. I did read to the end, though I didn't want to; I had engaged with Stuart enough to want to know what happened to him.

Poor man. How anyone can think this book is funny is absolutely beyond me. It's the most unrelentingly grim volume I've read since Cormack McCarthy's The Road. My three stars are a reflection of my ambiguity about the book, not of Stuart's sad and sorry life which was, by anyone's standards, a tragedy of our times.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stuart: A life backwards, 27 Feb 2006
By 
Mr Jim McGhee (Dungannon, Co. Tyrone N.I. United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
An excellent book. Alex Masters befriends Stuart Shorter a homeless drug addict and with his help begins to untangle his life story. How did he end up on the street? His story is riveting, at times funny, at times full of despair. Stuart is not potrayed as a hero fighting against the system. He does some truely terrible things. However we get an insight into the chaotic life of someone damaged by a terrible childhood and failed by the state system. Read this because Masters tells things as they are.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 211 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Stuart: A Life Backwards
Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters
£2.99
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews