Rating:

Adulterous husband + boisterous soccer team + crotchety woman in Sweden’s backwaters = Ha?!

Author: Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was Here CoverAfter loving the international sensation of A Man Called Ove, I was keen to pick up the new novel by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. Alas, Britt-Marie Was Here did not quite meet my expectations.

Backman seems to be relying on a formula—which, in A Man Called Ove, is exceedingly successful. He takes a curmudgeonly, inflexible older adult who sees the world in black and white, then he throws in a rowdy crowd of new neighbors that cause the older adult to stretch him/herself in unanticipated ways. In A Man Called Ove, this worked. In Britt-Marie Was Here, I found the whole thing to be forced and, at times, unbelievable.

Britt-Marie has led a tragic, rigid life. After learning of her husband’s infidelity, she leaves her disappointments behind and flees to a village in the Swedish countryside. She somehow manages to get a job running the recreation center and—cue the new neighbors—finds that she enjoys soccer and is able to inject a fresh (if odd) vigor into the crumbling community.

It’s a sweet story, and if you’re in the mood for a feel-good book Britt-Marie Was Here is a nice choice. For the more discerning reader, however, the pieces don’t fit snugly. Among other things, I think husband Kent’s sudden remorse is highly unlikely. I also find the “violent” storyline involving two hardened young men in Britt-Marie’s neighborhood to be a stretch. And then there are lots of awkward conversations and dialogue, along with Britt-Marie’s bizarre all-purpose “Ha”, which she says repeatedly throughout the book. Perhaps some of these wonky parts result from the novel’s translation from Swedish to English? Or perhaps we are simply getting a less-than-stellar side of Backman.

Backman does succeed in getting his main theme across. He writes, “At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?” I’m sure every reader can identify with this idea, and some might even see themselves in Britt-Marie as she stumbles along, inadvertently finding the answers.

-Laura Anne Bird


Britt-Marie Was Here: A Novel (Hardcover)


List Price: $26.00 USD
New From: $7.98 USD In Stock
Used from: $3.98 USD In Stock

 

Laura Anne Bird

Laura Anne Bird

When Laura is not folding copious baskets of laundry or reading her favorite genre of literary fiction, she spends her time running, cooking, and taking her blind dog on walks (yes, really).
Laura Anne Bird

Latest posts by Laura Anne Bird (see all)

Facebooktwitterpinterestmail