Back Story by David Mitchell – A Book Review

Not that David Mitchell, this is the British comedian, star of Would I Lie to You, Peep show and That Mitchell and Webb Sound amongst others. This is his biography. I bought this on a whim when I was looking for an audiobook to accompany me on my evening walks, coincidently the book is structured around David Mitchell going on a walk. I am a David Mitchell fan, his awkward and repressed persona coupled with his extremely quick wit, sarcastic, cynical rants and wonderfully expressive turns of phrase never fail to either amuse or impress me. That being said I am not usually one for biographies, however as he was narrating this version  I thought I’d give it a go. (Audibe link here)

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I loved it, I would say it’s my favourite audiobook ever, but I realise I’ve said that before and would likely say it again. Often when I’m completely enjoying a book I can’t imagine enjoying another book as much, I can’t compare them, I am in the world created by the author and no others exist. I think this is the greatest compliment you can give a book, and it applies here. I loved it so much I have now bought it in book format, feeling slightly low at the prospect of trying to fill my evening walk with some other audiobook.

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This biography was touching, clever, amusing and so very David Mitchell. As he walks the familiar streets around his house (to ease his bad back) he reveals his past; starting as a child, through to university and footlights, the early years after university before he broke into the comedy world and the slow build of his career to the current point. Towards the end is one of the loveliest chapters I’ve ever heard, he tells us about falling for his wife and how they came to be married. It’s not massively revealing, but hearing him read it, and the obvious change in tone of the book makes it far more emotive. His wordy cleverness falls to the side to an extent and we are left with a very simple, honest story of a man falling in love. I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know the story.

There aren’t any deep dark secrets, no mental health issues, major deaths, addiction issues or rehab, this is the story of a guy who’s liked his life overall, full of minor ups and downs like anyone else’s. You may think this would be quite dull to read about however because it’s David Mitchell it’s not, it’s funny and engaging. There’s hilarious anecdotes and ideas phrased so cleverly you can’t help but laugh to yourself even if working out at the gym or walking in public. I particularly enjoyed his delicate handling of peoples’ names that may not want to be mentioned.

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In summary if you like David Mitchell the comedian, or sarcastic humour, or a success story, or biographies generally, you will likely enjoy this book, more so with David Mitchell narrating it. If you actively dislike David Mitchell then perhaps it’s not for you, though it may change your mind; he’s not quite the repressed, tweedy, privileged, posh boy he presents on TV.

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