Stuart: A Life Backwards (4th Estate Matchbook Classics)

Alexander Masters

The winner of the Guardian First Book Award that reinvented the biographic form.

One of the ten books – novels, memoirs and one very unusual biography – that make up our Matchbook Classics’ series, a stunningly redesigned collection of some of the best loved titles on our backlist.

Stuart: A Life Backwards expanded the possibilities of what a biography could be: the stories it could tell, and how it could tell them. It is about 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 thief, hostage-taker, psycho and street raconteur.

Told backwards – Stuart’s idea – it starts with a deeply troubled thirty-two-year-old stepping out in front of the 11.15 train from London to King’s Lynn, and ends with a ‘happy-go-lucky little boy’ of twelve. Compelling, humane and funny, it is as extraordinary and unexpected as the life it describes.

Reviews of Stuart: A Life Backwards (4th Estate Matchbook Classics)

    • ‘Unique and wonderful.’ Daily Mail
    • ‘Possibly the best biography I have ever read.’ Mark Haddon
    • ‘This is a very rare and haunting book … A great first book.’ Andrew O’Hagan
    • ‘Good books like this appear about once every five years. It’s been years since I’ve been so delighted by a book and so surprised by it … When I’d finished I felt bereft, as if I’d lost an old friend.’ Zadie Smith
    • ‘Utterly compelling and very funny.’ Daily Telegraph
    • ‘One of the most remarkable and touching biographies I’ve ever read.’ Minette Marin, Sunday Times
    • ‘I feel so strongly about this strange, funny, sad book that I hardly know where to begin … My enthusiasm feels almost limitless. A page-turner.’ Observer
    • ‘Funny and original, a startling book … By the end I was doubled up in tears, but throughout I was often doubled up with laughter. It is dazzling.’ Vogue
    • ‘A remarkable biography. Unforgettably moving. A gripping read.’ Tim Lott, Sunday Times
    • ‘A comedy of errors and horrors deftly handled and with a terrifically droll sense of humour.’ Melanie McGrath, Evening Standard
    • ‘With his first book, Alexander Masters … has achieved something remarkable. He has, without patronising, given a voice to the “underclass”; at the same time, without preaching, he shows us the value of even the most damaged of human lives … a powerful book, humane, instructive and entirely original. Sunday Telegraph