Stories of slice of life may not be anyone's cup of tea (or coffee). There are times when I read such stories, I don't get move by how its meant to be written. When I read My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry, it was messy to me. Yes, its the point of view from a 7 year-old girl that her grandmother send her a quest of fairy tale stories that sort of mixed up with reality... for me, I can't tell which is which. Then came the unexpected spin-off - Britt-Marie Was Here and I find it much better than Fredrik Backman's previous book before this one.
Britt-Marie Was Here focus on the title character herself. In the previous book (not a sequel, mind you), she was annoyingly weird (to me that is), a nagger and fussy like hell. But here we get to see and understand who Britt-Marie truly is. Her life, what she was before and who she is now is deeper than we think. After what happen to her in My Grandmother Asked Me... , she traveled to Borg, a fictional place that nobody knows of and literally, its like non-existence. As Britt-Marie gets a job in a recreational center, she encounters unexpected characters that will change her life or how she change theirs. Plus a conversation with a rat, soccer and lots of baking soda and Flaxin plus cutlery. Oh yes - this book and like all Fredrik Backman's books has that same formulated story and theme. In A Man Called Ove, we have those kind of unexpected characters and a cat. In My Grandmother Asked Me..., we have an apartment of unexpected characters too and a dog (even the car Renault is a character of its own). There's no difference here. I can see how his books are written now. But is Britt-Marie Was Here a one-trick pony? Well... yes and no.
You see, there's some thing I enjoy reading this book and its just what message Backman is trying to say here. Its a good one and there's some realism about how people are too comfort in their current lives and afraid to break free and do some thing for themselves when their whole lives are about doing some thing for others. When we try to assure ourselves that the right way is to go back what it was before, its what's happening now. The book does show us that scenario... but of course, I can't give out that ending but I can say, its one I believe that is good. And then of course, Britt-Marie always felt nobody thinks she exist that she makes herself known she does and in the end... well, I can't reveal that either. What I enjoy most is how now the chapters are short and direct, it is a much easier feeling of reading that I took my time no longer than I had with the last book.
I can't say that this book is great but its a read that gives me a subtle warmness towards it, that I like when it comes to slice of life. And this is one of those books that I would say its worth reading for those who are lost in a course of their lives should pick this up.
Because this is one of those stories where they exist only to serve the characters and their arc, I can forgive the contrived plot and events. I really loved Britt-Marie’s character, because I recognized much of myself and others whom I love and am sometimes so frustrated with in her. And I appreciated the loose, untidy, hopeful ending.
Audiobook version, via Audible. I loved Joan Walker’s performance, especially the way she brought Britt-Marie’s character to life.
From the extraordinary author and Swedish storyteller, Fredrik Backman, with his award-winning debut, A Man Called Ove, delivers another zany character, BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE — A heartwarming, witty celebration of second chances, unlikely friendships, and the power of one person to make the world a better place.
Britt-Marie is age 63. Amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic. Some may say eccentric. She does not like a mess. Her husband Kent said she was aggressive-passive. Known as nag-bag. All she ever wanted was a balcony. She wanted a husband who did not walk on the parquet floors with his golf shoes. If he could only put his shirt in the laundry basket and would say occasionally he liked the food.
She likes an organized cutlery drawer. Clean windows. Newly mopped floors. Her favorite “go to” must have cleaning tool of choice “bicarbonate of soda.” It wipes always all the flaws. Clean and new. Kent said she was “socially incompetent.” They were past their sell by date. She had enough. There were limits. She was leaving.
Britt-Marie likes things clean. An obsession. A need for order. Would be nice to be appreciated. Be noticed. She was critical, hard to please, judgmental, excessively particular about details. Easily disgusted. She is flawed, zany, funny, and possesses a great heart. Her compulsive tendencies are explained by her tragic past and history of being neglected and diminished by those around her.
Leaving her husband, she starts a new. She finds herself in Borg, a tiny, economically depressed “community built along a road.” Most of the town has been shut down, most of the residents have left, and the ragtag bunch remaining includes orphaned children, a criminal, a former star of the local football team (now blind), and the proprietor of the only business in town—who's in a wheelchair, and most likely an alcoholic. Plus her relationship with a rat (hilarious).
As a caretaker, her new job is a perfect fit!. She cleans and cleans. The defunct recreational Center in the fictional European town of Borg. With an array of interesting off-beat characters including two young children—Vega and Omar.
But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward misfit, is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes. Love can be found in the most unexpected of places. A place of belonging.
Equally witty and poignant; Hilarious, insightful and moving, an inspiring story about truth, second chances, and rediscovery. Best of all, another important life lesson.
On a personal note, Britt-Marie is so much like my dad. At age 85, he is still a cleaning machine. Never get in the way of his cleaning. Heaven forbid you should come to the door after the floors have been freshly vacuumed. You will not be allowed to enter. Never interfere with his schedule.
I listened to the audiobook and Joan Walker's performance was amazing! A perfect entertaining Britt-Marie.
Highly recommend Backman’s latest novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer The small book with a Big powerful important message and loads of heart! Top Novella of 2016.
About the Author
Fredrik Backman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are being published around the world in more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.
Fredrik Backman: Staying Grounded
Q&A with Fredrik Backman, courtesy of Shelf Awareness
You used to drive a forklift. How did that evolve into writing books that are loved around the world?
I don't know. It's still a mystery to everyone who knows me. I always viewed writing as a hobby, not a career choice, and, to be honest, I still do. My dad keeps telling my wife she needs to "treat the money as if Fredrik won the lottery, because this probably won't last!" I think he's got a point. I think I'll eventually go back to having a real job, and I don't really think I'll be any less happy than I am now.