Back in the Day: A Memoir (Hardback)
  • Back in the Day: A Memoir (Hardback)

Back in the Day: A Memoir (Hardback)

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Hardback 416 Pages
Published: 26/05/2022
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Waterstones Says

Bragg's first ever memoir reveals the working-class Cumbrian lad's path to an Oxford scholarship, whilst also tenderly evoking the close-knit community of his youth and its memorable characters as one era of tradition collapsed into another of opportunity and freedom.

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

In this captivating memoir, Melvyn Bragg recalls growing up in the Cumbrian market town of Wigton, from his early childhood during the war to the moment he had to decide between staying on or spreading his wings.

This is the tale of a boy who lived in a pub and expected to leave school at fifteen yet won a scholarship to Oxford. Derailed by a severe breakdown when he was thirteen, he developed a passion for reading and study - though that didn't stop him playing in a skiffle band or falling in love.

It is equally the tale of the people and place that formed him. Bragg indelibly portrays his parents and local characters from pub regulars to vicars, teachers and hardmen, and vividly captures the community-spirited northern town - steeped in the old ways but on the cusp of post-war change. A poignant elegy to a vanished era as well as the glories of the Lake District, it illuminates what made him the writer, broadcaster and champion of the arts he is today.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 9781529394450
Number of pages: 416
Weight: 640 g
Dimensions: 238 x 160 x 38 mm


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bursting with affection and tough love. Bragg brings his working-class Cumbrian life of tin baths and shared outside loos memorably to life, but what emerges most strongly from his clear-eyed look back is the strong sense of community he shared, and still cherishes. - Best Summer Books, The Times

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This is an account of the authors growing up in his home town of Wigton. Whilst his love for the town of his birth and the many characters he encountered, I found that the writing was a bit flat and long winded. I... More

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