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Back in the Day  By  cover art

Back in the Day

By: Melvyn Bragg
Narrated by: Melvyn Bragg
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Publisher's Summary

An Observer and Daily Mail "Books of 2022" Pick

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 15 yet won a scholarship to Oxford. Derailed by a severe breakdown when he was 13, 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.

©2022 Melvyn Bragg Limited (P)2022 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

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  • Andrew P
  • 09-26-22

Excellent book and a familiar landscape to me

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. This is also particularly interesting for me being from Wigton myself, knowing the author and many of the characters mentioned, as well as all the backstreets and lanes of Wigton, and what it is to be from the town. I was particularly interested to hear about his parents, and their story.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-06-22

Fabulous!

As a Wigton boy myself I found this book absolutely fabulous! Melvyns words carried me back to a Wigton of my own fathers time , growing up myself in Tenters only yards from the Blacky pub I felt a real connection with the places and people Melvyn spoke so fondly of .
The book is honest and doesnt hide anything , it's all there warts n all as they say .
Melvyns reflections are vivid and he portrays with eloquence his feelings and emotions of what was often a challenging and difficult time.
He re tells the highs and lows and all the inbwetweens with such an ease that I felt I was back there in Wigton in the 50s and 60s .
I have always been aware of his fame and popularity in our little town but not untill I read / listened to this do I feel I really know him as a man .He was often moved to tears in his narration when reflecting and retelling certain special moments and I too wept as I listened .
Anyone who can write and make someone else feel the same emotion they did is a true master in my very humble opinion .
I feel his narration at times was like we were sat together in the same room talking of old times in Wigton.
please listen or read this fantastic book you will not regret it .
M.Holden. Wigtonian .

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-04-22

More Shadows than the Tint of Roses

I was tempted to buy this audiobook for three reasons: my cousin grew up with Melvyn Bragg; I have happily read several of his previous books, and he has been so much a part of my adult radio and TV experience. What was his life in a small town like? The first thing to say is that this memoir is keenly drawn, but it is not restricted to a cinematic re-telling. He recalls, he wonders - and his adult sensibilities are always ready-to-hand such as in commentary on firmly held beliefs on country/patriotism and religion. His is a knowing eye and honest.
I was very touched with Bragg’s emotional candour which he cannot help but show, seeming to me to be crying/voice cracking as he describes his mother’s teaching the town girls country dancing. His loyalty to people and his pride in people is equally to the fore. It was his life before leaving for university that was my main focus and found his telling of it was so good. I have to say I skipped much after. It would, by the way have been a real help if there was a town plan of the period to refer to
For me the audiobook was somewhat flawed in that his own performance is at a speed quicker than his normal speaking voice as you would hear it on the radio or on the TV. What this means is that it is too easy for a beautiful turn or words, a truth, or comment to blend in to the flow. When you want to absorb it – he has moved on. If you alter the Audible speed below 1.0 the effect is unpleasant.

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  • Cumbrian Boy
  • 09-26-22

I cried

This story was beautifully and respectfully written and read by an at times deeply emotional Melvyn Bragg. I loved every moment and every phrase. It is a masterpiece.
His respect for the community is palpable, the respect for those around his deeply respectful and the respect for his parents is truly borne out of deep love for two people who sacrificed themselves for him. I want many more people to share this journey.
Thank you MB for the privilege of your insight and kindness. Wilton is a better place for your having been there.
A West Cumberland boy.

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  • Esme Tingate
  • 09-05-22

Back in the day was a joy to listen to.

With a gentle voice, Lord Bragg presented recollections of his early life in Wigton, a delight to hear. Details of places and townsfolk were very well remembered, and I was taken back with a warm feeling, to the 1950s, a time when community was important. Although I didn’t live in Wigton, I often visited with my cousins, Audrey and Valerie from Silloth. They also attended Tomlinson High. I didn’t want the story to end and felt the emotion as the narrator said a farewell (but not a final goodbye) to Wigton. Thank you Melvyn Bragg.

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  • cherrypot
  • 09-02-22

Great listen

This is a such a good book , Melvyn Braggs narration was wonderful, occasionally and understandably emotional , a true evocation of a world within a town .
Thank you

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  • Seayeaitch
  • 09-18-22

Back in the day: Excellent…..

I enjoyed every minute and didn’t want it to end, it to me was as if I was having a personal chat with Melvyn himself. His descriptions of the people the places and the times were all so natural, he tells the story as it was this to me reflects his age and experiences.
Now I hope we can look forward to further instalments, a must read for all who like and have followed Bragg.

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  • Rachel Redford
  • 09-07-22

"I would go but never leave"



“I would go but never leave” are the closing words of Melvyn Bragg’s 11-hour memoir of his young life spent in his forever-beloved Cumbria. True words! He left the community of Wigton as a young man when he went up to Oxford but now at the age of 82 it is within him as indelibly as when he lived there.

The clarity of his detailed recall is absolutely astonishing. But then Melvyn Bragg has of course woven his autobiography into his distinguished novels from as far back as For Want of a Nail in 1965, and I feel that the extensive discussions, conversations and dialogue are (often over-long) reconstructions. However much of the novelist there is in this memoir, what is absolutely without embroidery are the complex, conflicting and poignant workings of his heart and mind as from a child during the War years he absorbs the life-giving essence of the Cumbrian landscape and the Wigton people, struggles alone through a frightening teenage mental collapse, becomes part of a rock band, falls in love with the smiling girl he wanted to marry and with the guidance of enlightened Grammar school teachers develops his consuming passion for learning.

His young life he tells us was overshadowed by lies and secrets , and it was many years before he knew that his mother Elsie had been illegitimate and the woman he knew as his grandmother was really Elsie’s foster mother. It seems unremarkable now, but ‘back in the day’ it mattered a great deal and is just one of the many fundamental ways in which 1940s and 1950s Wigton differed from now in ways scarcely imaginable to those half Bragg’s age. His parents Elsie and Stanley were typical of the community he calls working class where there were no social distinctions, just hard-working uncomplaining people made up of damaged men having returned from the War in hard daily manual work; women working and raising children unrelieved by modern conveniences and children playing wonderfully complex outdoor unsupervised games. Money was tight but life was rich in the now vanished qualities which Bragg explores in such minute detail, detail which I felt at times needed pruning.

I’m a great admirer of Melvyn Bragg for his writing and his radio work but I have to say that he is not the best reader of his own work. His distinctive voice is excellent on In Our Time for example but listened to over any length of time he is actually quite difficult to hear as some words drop away towards the send of a sentence, and as there is little variation in tone it becomes monotonous. Never mind, this is an evocation that stays with you.


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  • Mike Mac
  • 11-26-22

A Missed Opportunity

As an ex pupil of Bragg's Grammar School in Wigton in the late 50's and early 60's. I was so looking forward to this book. The story itself did not disappoint, and reflected Bragg's undoubted literary genius, and his ability to paint a compelling picture of his experiences "back in the day". I wish that I had decided to simply read the book itself, as sadly, his narration, even for a fellow Cumbrian, was often largely unintelligible, due both to his often rushed delivery and his tendency to mumble. A clearly enunciating guest narrator would have transformed this work into a tour de force. Such a disappointment.

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  • Wollocombe
  • 11-17-22

Surprising

Lovely canter though childhood to Uni. Beautifully described and allows the listener inside. Nice gentle excursion

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  • ELIZABETH
  • 09-21-22

A lost world

Bragg recreates the world of his youth, possibly viewed through rose-coloured glasses. However, it is impossible not to be drawn in to the unlovely Wigton and its working class characters. This is undoubtedly his world and the world that formed him. He modestly tells us how he worked so hard to be what? (a success? famous? a credit to his family and teachers? who knows?). He should be proud of what he achieved and to have produced a historic document which neither patronizes nor eulogizes his fellow countrymen. The book is certainly aided by being narrated by the author. Be warned, however, that you might need sharp ears to catch everything he says. I was dubious at the start, but either his diction improved as he got into the book or maybe I just got used to his affecting lilt.