Backstories by Simon Van der Velde – A Book Review

Book laid out on a flat lay with a cup of tea and decorations

Sure, I float like a butterfly but I sting like a bee, cos the hands can’t hit what the eye can’t see.”

Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

‘Backstories’ by Simon Van Der Velde follows the stories of 14 familiar souls, only they aren’t familiar. Not until you as the reader discover their backstory. From Rose and Fred West to the incredible Muhammad Ali, Van Der Velde does an excellent job at keeping the reader guessing right until the last page of the chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed analysing each and every word, trying to work out which known person the backstory could be representing. It was like combining my love for autobiographies and mystery fiction together in a way I didn’t know was possible, not to mention the subtle throw in of nostalgia for all. Van Der Velde is highly talented in his delivery of this and keeps you as the reader engaged throughout.

Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

Everybody has a backstory, a journey that they’ve been on or were on before they made their mark on the world, but how aware are we of these? How much do we know about the ‘before’ stories of some of the world’s greatest, and in this context, worst souls to have lived? Muhammad Ali’s story was one I was completely unaware of despite knowing of his success and story OF success, and this is one I can’t share because SPOILER alert! Despite my busy schedule of late, I sped through this book within a couple of days, eager to hear more stories and find out whose backstory’s were left to unravel.

The first-time author, based in Newcastle, described his book as “fourteen familiar souls stripped naked”, which the stories of famous heroes and villains at key moments in their lives. The book will be released on March 25 in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats, leaving you with plenty of options to try to identify these –  “dreamers, singers, heroes and killers”. Simon, 53, came up with the idea of writing about the people who fascinated and inspired him in childhood.  “These are people you know, but not as you know them,” he said. “I was  born in 67, and the musicians, activists and murderers of the time really  caught my imagination. In Backstories, I aim to get behind the image. I want to highlight the pivotal moments in their lives, to explore that paper thin line between success and failure.”

Synopsis: 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.

You can purchase your own copy of ‘Backstories’ by Simon Van Der Velde on Amazon here.

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Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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