Fredrik Backman has done it again. First, I read A Man Called Ove. Then, I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. My third foray into Backman’s work might be my favorite yet: Britt-Marie Was Here was everything I love about Backman’s writing and more.
If you, like me, are a fan of Backman’s other books, you’ll recognize some of the characters in Britt-Marie Was Here. This book features one of the apartment tenants, Britt-Marie, and focuses on her life after a falling out with her husband, Kent. Britt-Marie is in her 60s and set in her ways, to say the least. She is the perfect mix of caring and curmudgeonly and by the end, I found her irresistible.
After leaving Kent, Britt-Marie finds herself in Borg, a town falling apart at the seams after the economic recession. She has arrived in this small town to run the rec center and to live by herself for the first time in her life. Along the way, she gets to know the motley crew of neighbors: Somebody, Vega, Omar, Sami, Bank, Sven, and others all cast their own colorful light on the overall plot. Needless to say, Britt-Marie – who is strictly set in her ways – is taken for a spin by the unpredictable people she encounters and comes to love in Borg. One of the biggest surprises of her life is the game of soccer and the role it plays in bringing Borg together and bringing Britt-Marie to life.
Backman develops characters so wholly you feel like you know them – or you at least start to see aspects of them in the people you know. His expertise is the elderly cast. He writes about aging and life views in a way that makes me feel as if his main characters are my surrogate grandparents. Through their experiences, he expounds on profound truths, but does so in a way that doesn’t weigh readers down. Backman’s style is an ideal mix of levity and deep meaning.
I found myself laughing out loud at times, underlining the heck out of some quotes, and falling in love with the town of Borg and Britt-Marie.
“All passion is childish. It’s banal and naïve. It’s nothing we learn; it’s instinctive, and so it overwhelms us. Overturns us. It bears us away in a flood. All other emotions belong to the earth, but passion inhabits the universe. That is the reason why passion is worth something, not for what it gives us but for what it demands that we risk. Our dignity. The puzzlement of others and their condescending, shaking heads.”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Stats: 336 pages
Recommended for: Fans of Backman’s other books and those looking for an easy but enjoyable read.
Up Next: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande