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Back in the Day: Melvyn Bragg's deeply affecting, first ever memoir

Melvyn Bragg

7 Reviews

Rated 0

Autobiography: literary, Memoirs, Prose: non-fiction, Rural communities

Melvyn Bragg's first ever memoir - an elegiac, intimate account of growing up in post-war Cumbria, which vividly evokes a vanished world.

'The best thing he's ever written . . . What a world he captures here. You can almost smell it' Rachel Cooke, Observer

'Wonderfully rich, endearing and unusual . . . a balanced, honest picture' Richard Benson, Mail on Sunday

In this elegiac and heartfelt memoir, Melvyn Bragg recreates his youth in the Cumbrian market town of Wigton: a working-class boy who expected to leave school at fifteen yet who gained a scholarship to Oxford University; who happily roamed the streets and raided orchards with his gang of friends until a breakdown in adolescence drove him to find refuge in books.

Vividly evoking the post-war era, Bragg draws an indelible portrait of all that formed him: a community-spirited northern town, still steeped in the old ways; the Lake District landscapes that inspired him; and the many remarkable people in his close-knit world.

'A charming account of a lost era, full of details and often lyrical descriptions of people and places . . . fascinating and often moving' Christina Patterson, Sunday Times

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Praise for Back in the Day: Melvyn Bragg's deeply affecting, first ever memoir

  • A masterly evocation of his early life in Cumbria . . . Bragg's book, the best thing he's ever written, imbues the overused literary adjective "piercing" with real meaning . . . I can't hope to capture, in the space I have here, this book's extraordinary geography, let alone its strange, inchoate beauty: the way that Bragg, in his struggle fully to explain his meaning, so often hits on something wise and even numinous (when he does, it's as if a bell sounds). All I can say is that I loved it - Observer

  • A memoir bursting with affection and gruff love . . . a charming account of a lost era, full of details and often lyrical descriptions of people and places . . . a fascinating and often moving portrait of a time, a place and a working-class boy who fell in love with words and made a distinguished career out of using them extremely well. - Sunday Times

  • A moving portrait of a lost England . . . As a feat of dramatised recollection Back in the Day is remarkable. The Boys' Own scrapes and japes - an apple orchard raid, a gang hideout dug into a river bank - come alive like set pieces from his beloved Jennings. - Daily Telegraph

  • Utterly captivating . . . [Bragg] bears his audience in mind, never writing a dull or self-indulgent sentence and thinking about and celebrating other people on every page . . . it's full of rapture and the joy of everything . . . Bragg is such a persuasive writer, with such clear recall, that he even recreates the excitement of a sixth-form English lesson. I got totally caught up with his falling in love with learning and knowledge.' - Daily Mail

  • Wonderfully rich, endearing and unusual . . . a balanced, honest picture . . .The smoky, damp and introverted world in which livestock are still sold in the town centre, and horses are only slowly ceding to motor cars, is brought to life with subtle skill. Wigton's streets become soot-streaked theatre for a huge cast of town characters for whom the author shows a convincing, rather than patronising, affection . . . If any of our current political leaders wants to create a vision that actually makes people want to vote, they could do worse than prescribe this to their MPs as required summer reading. - Mail on Sunday

  • Beautifully written, lyrical and romantic, touching and tender . . . I enjoyed and admired it all. - The Oldie

  • Rawly truthful and engaging . . . There is a blissful absence of cliche in this personal odyssey, which is at the same time a fascinating essay in social history. - i

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Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg is a writer and broadcaster whose first novel, For Want of a Nail, was published in 1965. His novels since include The Maid of Buttermere, The Soldier's Return, A Son of War, Credo and Now is the Time, which won the Parliamentary Book Award for fiction in 2016. His books have also been awarded the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the WHSmith Literary Award, and have been longlisted three times for the Booker Prize (including the Lost Man Booker Prize).
He has also written several works of non-fiction, including The Adventure of English and The Book of Books about the King James Bible.
He lives in London and Cumbria.

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