Thursday 8 April 2021

(Ad | Review) Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde Fictional Biographical Book Review

Backstories is a brand new book from Simon Van Der Velde, and he's sent me a copy for review. Subtitled "Intimate Stories About People You Think You Know", this is imagination and poetic licence, coupled with what we know to be factual biography, and intertwined with a bit of puzzle.

Definitely a book for the grown ups, Backstories is a collection of short stories, each detailing an event or time in a well-known person's life. The twist is that you aren't told who it is, although you get enough hints to work it out at some point before the end....

Backstories fiction biography by Simon Van Der velde

Each story is very well written, and paints a scene which is usually normal and everyday at first, leading into the actions and outcomes which have shaped a very important part of who that person is. Their backstory. The author takes known facts, and relates 'as it may have happened'.

Backstories is incredibly readable, and moreish. The stories are short and snappy, and the clues start off subtle and end up giving the whole thing away. You want to just read the next one, and the next one, and if your reading is in intermittent spurts, as mine often is with my family around, it's perfect for a 5 or 10 minute break.

My partner also read Backstories, and both of us were startled enough to stop reading at the same point in the book. These characters aren't all pop stars and movie actors, a couple of the stories feature well-known murders, including a killer who was very local to our area. I guess that's the effect some people can have, even 50 years later.

Backstories fictional biography  chapter titles

We can see these characters were human, and that they made terrible decisions which we wouldn't have made. It makes quite uncomfortable reading, but there is respect for the victims. There isn't any room for, or expectation of, sympathy when the author deals with these backstories. 

Most of the tales are fairly lightweight, and good-humoured, and a few lead up to events which we've all heard of. If you can guess the character early enough, you can spot all of the more subtle clues as you read.

Backstories fictional biography inside text example Simon Van Der Velde

Backstories is a true gem of a book, and it taught me a few things I didn't know, about people and events I thought I knew well. Each short tale is an entire scene in itself, and they're the sort of stories people tell over drinks in good company. These are events in time or in that individual's life, which shape their future - and sometimes ours as well. It's actually a very cosy book. Possibly best enjoyed by  those of us who are old enough to remember the 80's... although maybe I would wait another 20 years before telling one of the stories around here, it still feels just a little early... 

Backstories is written by Simon Van Der Velde, published by Smoke And Mirrors Press, and available now. Paperback, 118 pages, £7.99.
30% of all profits go to Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth
. Amazon affilate link below: 


I was sent my copy of Backstories for review. The author also attempted to bribe me with chocolates, but Haha! I'm not that easy to coerce. This IS my actual opinion...


  1. ooh what an interesting sounding book. I will check that out.

    1. It really is a very interesting book - very different :)


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