Book Review Rules.
The book may (or may not) work for me personally but that’s not to say it didn’t do wonders for (or fail) someone else.
Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
Would I recommend?
“She wonders what takes the most out of the person: to be the kind that jumps, or the kind that doesn’t? She wonders how much space a person has left in her soul to change herself, once she gets older.”
- As a character, I love Britt-Marie. I could give or take the story (give) but Britt-Marie is a trip. I love her accidental dry humor, also reflected in her equally dry thoughts. I love Britt-Marie’s one-note, monotone response of “Ha” when confronted with unexpected information and normal, everyday expression from others. As she is challenged, I love Britt-Marie’s insistence on boundaries that do not make sense under any given circumstance. Britt-Marie is uncomfortably and unapologetically herself, I dig it.
- I felt Britt-Marie’s fear of dying alone, not being meaningful enough to anyone for her absence to be noticed. It was written from a real place and presented poignantly.
- As well as the fear that drives her decision, to exist in the world, Britt-Marie’s courage in taking on a new life at age 63 is equally portrayed.
- The kids in this novel are well written and it made me realize how often a child’s personality is often railroaded or neglected in literary novels that primarily feature adults. Each of the kids are unique and burn brighter than any one of the adults excepting therefrom, Britt-Marie, respectively.
- Many reading this novel would declare Britt-Marie as OCD or autistic…the author doesn’t define MC’s “quirks,” she simply presents Britt-Marie as is and I respect that on every single level of character presentation. I’m so tired of reading about characters who, instead of signaling their differences to the audience, are strictly defined and laid out. A good reference for this point is Ricky Gervais’ show, Derek (absolutely beautiful, if you haven’t seen Derek I strongly recommend it), Gervais never defines Derek as “intellectually challenged,” nor given any labels. Derek, as a character, is presented as is and it is utterly refreshing. That’s how I experience Britt-Marie, she is simply herself, quirks aplenty and without apology.
- When Britt-Marie befriended a rat (or made an acquaintance, as Britt-Marie would have it), my heart broke. I understood what drove this because at the end of the day we all need someone to speak to, even if it’s a rat that must be coaxed with a Snickers bar.
- I won’t go into the details (see my rules page, linked above) but I adored Britt-Marie’s ending. In the end, many declared their need for Britt-Marie and she struggled to choose amongst all the needs. The children saw what all the adults did not, including Britt-Marie herself, and helped her choose in the end. It was beautiful and not at all what I expected.
The Not So Good
- In every review I’ve ever written, pacing is brought up at some point because it’s critical to my enjoyment. I put this novel down, and picked it back up several times. The story is never so fluid as when we read from Britt-Marie’s thoughts, feelings, and expression, but then the tedium kicks in. Other characters like, “Somebody,” while necessary, were given too much space for expression. And because I don’t connect with the importance of soccer, I often phased out when any of the characters deep-dove into the love of the game.
The New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry “returns with this heartwarming story about a woman rediscovering herself after a personal crisis…fans of Backman will find another winner in these pages” (Publishers Weekly).
Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.
But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes…