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Back in the Day

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781529394498

Price: £10.99

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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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Reviews

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
Rachel Cooke, Observer
A childhood 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 . . . If it sounds idealised, it isn't. Bragg is clear-eyed about the 'harshness under the surface' . . . 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.
Christina Patterson, Sunday Times
Disarmingly poignant . . . In other hands this tale would easily be the stuff of cliché, except that Bragg fills every memory and anecdote with both meaning and feeling . . . He has written some 40 books and this lovely memoir is surely the most affecting of them all.
Michael Prodger, New Statesman
Rawly truthful and engaging . . . There is a blissful absence of cliché in this personal odyssey, which is at the same time a fascinating essay in social history.
Michael Church, i
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 . . . there are darker sides to the story, and they too kept me gripped . . . 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.'
Ysenda Maxtone Graham, 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.
Richard Benson, Mail on Sunday
Exquisitely penned . . . a love letter to his youth and to those who peopled it. A book you'll return to again and again.
Sunday Post
Melvyn Bragg is a broadcasting legend and an accomplished novelist but this is his finest work and an instant classic. It's an affecting and evocative account of his working-class upbringing in the small Cumbrian market town of Wigton and a vivid Cider With Rosie-style portrait of a particular place and time.
Best Summer Reads, Mail on Sunday
Back in the Day paints a vivid and captivating picture of Bragg's early childhood . . . Bragg's childhood, spent running madly about the streets with his friends . . . is set against an unforgettably affectionately drawn backdrop of kind but strict grown-ups who laced the place with a sliver of fear . . . What is incredible is that Bragg has written the memoir . . . completely from memory.
Catherine Scott, Yorkshire Post
This wonderfully authentic and often moving account of Bragg's childhood up to the time he leaves for university, is a heartfelt celebration of family life in a working-class community during the 1940s and 50s. It brims with beautifully observed details
PD Smith, Guardian
Affectingly tracing his ascent from working-class Wigton to Hampstead intelligentsia, Bragg's first memoir is a homage to his boyhood Cumbria - and to the golden era of social mobility which gave him a leg up
Daily Telegraph
A wonderfully full and detailed picture of one particular place at a particular time and an evocation of Melvyn Bragg's intense and enduring involvement in it
Michael Frayn
Beautifully written, lyrical and romantic, touching and tender . . . I enjoyed and admired it all.
Hunter Davies, The Oldie
A wonderful memoir . . . a truly great book about what it means to come from somewhere, to be of a culture, to be cultured not in the rarest but the most communal sense.
Howard Jacobson
He has an amazing memory for detail, but what shines through it all is his love for the place and its people. That makes the book very special.
Ken Follett
An extraordinary work - eloquent, charming, insightful, vivid, touching, and a true work of literature
Tony Palmer
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.
Jasper Rees, Daily Telegraph