Back Story by David Mitchell

I love David Mitchell.  Just to clarify, I am of course referring to the David Mitchell who stars in one of my favourite ever sitcoms, ‘Peep Show’, rather than the David Mitchell who wrote a really weird book called ‘Cloud Atlas‘ which I failed to finish earlier this year.  ‘Back Story’ is David (‘Peep Show’) Mitchell’s memoir about his peaceful middle-class childhood, his experiences with Footlights at Cambridge University and his route to fame as a critically acclaimed actor and comedian.  It definitely has nothing to do with ‘Cloud Atlas’ although Mitchell says he is frequently mistaken for the author of the bestselling book.

As a fan of Mitchell, it was always likely that I would enjoy his autobiography and therefore this book (and my review) will probably only be of interest to those who are also familiar with his TV comedy work and his journalism for The Guardian.  I don’t read autobiographies very often as they can often be a bit self-indulgent and/or ghost-written but Mitchell is both self-deprecating and literate which makes ‘Back Story’ both entertaining and engaging.

Mitchell enjoys walking and guides the reader on a tour around North London from Kilburn to the BBC studios, using each location as a launching point for a different part of his life.   It’s a good format and overall, it works. Much of the book focuses on his student days at Cambridge and his early career with his main comedy partner, Robert Webb.  Although this section was perhaps a little over-long, Mitchell gives a good insight into the workings of the television industry and the frustrating process of getting a pilot commissioned. 

Mitchell comes across as a genuinely likeable and thoroughly decent sort of chap who deserves both his personal and career successes.  In particular, the chapter about his relationship with Victoria Coren (who also happens to be the host of my favourite TV quiz show, ‘Only Connect’) is very moving.  It goes without saying that if you enjoy Mitchell’s comedy, then you will like this book.  If nothing else, it definitely beats ‘Cloud Atlas’…


Filed under Books

11 responses to “Back Story by David Mitchell

  1. I love David Mitchell, too! I am particularly fond of The Mitchell and Webb Look (the parody of Pride and Prejudice is priceless!). I’m looking forward to reading Mitchell’s autobiography at some point.


  2. David Mitchell is the best! I spent half my night tonight watching clips of his rants on YouTube. Time well spent.


  3. I am so glad I am not the only person who found Cloud Atlas (or at least as much as I managed to read) rather dull. No, let’s be honest, pompous and psuedo intellectual crap. At least I was given my copy and didn’t have to buy it. I apologise to St Cuthbert’s Hospice shop for offloading it to them.


  4. We really do have remarkably similar taste in books, (alhough we sill disagree on Cloud Atlas!!)…I reviewed ‘Back Story’ on my blog a few weeks ago!!
    Keep up the reading and writing!!


  5. I find it very interesting how different people organize their memoirs/autobiographies. So far, my favorite have been Bossypants and How To Be a Woman, both of which are hilarious and include musings that are kept organized by connections to chronologically ordered events in the authors lives. I think one where events are connected by place could work really well and might give this one a try 🙂


  6. I’m a big fan of David Mitchell too! I haven’t read that many autobiographies, but am usually pleasantly surprised when I do. I must just choose the right ones! This is definitely going to be on my list to read.


  7. If you are a David Mitchell Fan, check out his book video episodes as he’s followed around London,


  8. Pingback: The 2013 End of Year Book Survey | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

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