Title: Terry Pratchett: A Life with Footnotes

Author: Rob Wilkins

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 524

Rating: 5/5

I’ve been looking forward to getting to this book for a while, but I’ve also been kind of hesitant because I knew it would make me sad. Terry Pratchett is arguably my favourite author of all time, and certainly one of the authors who I’ve read the most. I cried at work when he passed away, and I’ve since finished reading pretty much everything he ever published.

Rob Wilkins was Pratchett’s personal assistant, but it turns out that he’s also a pretty good writer. It helps that he had a few notes from Pratchett himself to work on, but he also had to do a decent amount of research on top of that to fill in the gaps.

The result is a truly moving biography that covers the entirety of Pratchett’s life, from his birth and early years in Beaconsfield to his fight and eventual demise at the hand of a rare form of Alzheimer’s.

Those final chapters are particularly tough to read, because the extent of his condition was largely kept private until his death was announced. We all knew what he was fighting and the way it manifested, and we knew that he was no longer able to do signings or to speak himself at his public engagements, but it was hard to read about him losing the ability to write even with assistance and eventually becoming non-verbal.

But I don’t want to dwell on that, even though it almost made me cry on the train.

For me, reading about Pratchett’s early years was more interesting than it would be to most because he grew up just down the road from me in the next town over. It’s close enough that I’ve jogged there and back. Better still, he went to secondary school in High Wycombe, where I’m from, and they used to do P.E. lessons where they ran around the Rye, which is where I go for my local parkrun. He even used to live in a house on a street where I used to live.

After living in Wycombe, Pratchett moved to Bristol, which is where my girlfriend is from. He didn’t much like his job at the paper there though, and so he soon moved on. It’s pretty interesting to see how he made a living writing first for newspapers and later for a nuclear power plant before he was able to go full-time as an author.

If you’re interested in this because you’re hoping to uncover some secret that’s going to turn you into a bestselling author, you’re out of luck. Pratchett himself knew that there was no secret, and it seems that he struggled to give lectures on creative writing because he couldn’t see how it could actually be taught.

But if you want to learn more about what made Terry Pratchett tick and to get a better feel for what he was like, this will be the book for you. Just don’t be surprised if you start sobbing.

Learn more about Terry Pratchett: A Life with Footnotes.