Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Baking Soda and Soccer

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman


Every so often, a writer comes along who can write a story with characters that touch you to your very core. Fredrik Backman is one of those writers - he did it with his first novel A Man Called Ove, repeated this with his second novel My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologizes, and he's done it again with Britt-Marie Was Here. Backman finds his way into your heart by giving us an ordinary, sometimes an annoying person, who has something very special, deep inside them that they don't know exists. Britt-Marie is one of these people. In his latest novel, Backman slowly peels away at all the things Britt-Marie has built around her to hide behind, in order to find something precious.

The story begins with Britt-Marie having left her husband Kent at the hospital after he had a heart attack while he was with his mistress. Through sheer tenacity, and infuriating persistence, Britt-Marie gets a temporary job as the caretaker of the recreation center in Borg. The problem is that the tiny village of Borg is practically a ghost town, but its remaining residents are no less tenacious and no less than infuriatingly persistent than Britt-Marie. Furthermore, neither Britt-Marie nor Borg intends to change who they are, in any way, shape, or form, except… neither could they imagine the outcome of this unstoppable force meeting that immovable object.

Fans of Backman's work will of course recognize Britt-Marie as being one of the characters he developed for his last novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologizes. I have the feeling that Backman probably fell in love with Britt-Marie's irascible character, possibly because she reminded him of his first protagonist, Ove. However, to tell the truth, it really doesn't matter if that was his reason for writing this novel, we can only thank the literary gods above that he wrote it, because as amazing as his first two novels were, this one is even better.

Usually this is where I tell you what it was that made me fall in love with this book; I would probably take this space to talk about character development, aspects of the protagonist, writing style, plot development and more. However, in this instance, I can't, because I fear that I'd end up reiterating everything I have already said about Backman's previous two novels (so I included links to my reviews of those books, above). Furthermore, I'd probably end up effusing so much praise with hyperbole of admiration that you'd get bored. Instead, let me tell you that if you haven't read any of Backman's novels, you really should, and it doesn't matter which of the three you start with - although I would recommend that you read this book after you've read My Grandmother. Mind you, that doesn't mean that this book isn't a stand-alone novel, but I think readers will appreciate this book just a tad more if they read about Britt-Marie as secondary character first.

Finally, of course there is no reason for me to defend my rating of a full five out of five stars for this novel. Backman has done it again, and it looks like this book will rank high on my list of my five favorite books of the year - for a third year in a row! Read this book, read Backman, you'll never regret it - and that's something Britt-Marie can certainly appreciate.



"Britt-Marie Was Here" by Fredrik Backman, published in the USA by Atria Books, released May 3, 2016 is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books (USA, Canada & Australia), iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery on print books, or as a downloadable audiobook), new or used from Alibris as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for giving me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review (and believe me, I really do mean EVERY word of this review).