Posted 20 hours ago

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

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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. I was walking down Walton Street and saw this big poster that had the spitting image of my girlfriend on it. He is in effect saying that even though he has chosen to go to Oxford to study, in his heart he will never leave behind his home and those living there! The best thing about it the book was the way it captured the culture of working-class life and displayed it in all its glory. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer View image in fullscreen ‘Pulling pints is a little knack’: Melvyn Bragg photographed in London, February 2023.

Prolific author, critic, historian, populariser of art, science and philosophy, broadcaster, politician and campaigner, and for more than twenty years, presenter of one of the jewels in the crown of the BBC, the weekly Radio 4 programme ‘In Our Time’, his commitment and enthusiasm for the examined life can be traced back to his roots in the north Cumbrian market town of Wigton. We work closely with publishers and authors to ensure that we offer the best books on the market for your child. I will be forever grateful for his program “In Our Time” on BBC Radio 4 and for his books on Tyndale and King James Bible. 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).But no Enid Blyton for us), The Goon Show on the radio (we listened to The Navy Lark, Educating Archie and Hoirney into Space, but these were a little later).

But those who have no knowledge of Wigton will still be moved and entertained by the books’ depiction of a northern community in the 40s and 50s, and the development within it of an important figure in the cultural life of this country.

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. I can’t hope to capture, in the space I have here, this book’s extraordinary emotional 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). I think he was fortunate in being an only child in some ways because his parents were able to support his choices whereas they might not have been able to if there were a handful of other kids to care for. An only child, he went to the local grammar school and had the opportunity to stay on in 6th form, supported by his parents, when almost all his peer group left to start work. This is a really good book and especially good that the author is narrating himself, there are times when he is clearly very emotional and this adds very much to the impact of the story.

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