Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
Atria Books: 5/3/16
eBook review copy; 336 pages
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman is a highly
recommended novel about a set-in-her-ways and taken for granted unhappy
woman who makes a change in her life.
Britt-Marie, 63, likes to keep a clean, orderly house. Her cutlery draw
is always properly arranged. Baking soda is her go-to cleaning and
housekeeping aid, along with the window cleaner called Faxin.
Britt-Marie is outspoken, socially awkward, and straightforward. She
knows she is called a "nag-bag" and doesn't particularly care. She has
also left her husband of 40 years, Kent, after he has had a heart attack
and smells of perfume and pizza. She recognized but choose to ignore
his unfaithfulness for years, as long as his shirt was put right into
the washer when he got home because it smelled of perfume and she
doesn't use perfume.
Britt-Marie talks to the employment counselor and finds herself as the
caretaker for the Recreational Center in the very small town of Borg.
Borg has been hit hard by the financial crisis, even though Kent says it
is over. Britt-Marie does her best to clean and meets some of the
citizens still left in the town, which includes soccer-playing children,
a visually challenged former soccer player, the owner of the only
business still open in town, and the local police officer.
Backman does an excellent job developing the flawed character of
Britt-Marie. Her thought processes and mannerisms are clearly captured
and some of the inner turmoil she is dealing with and the mistreatment
she has endured is revealed. In the end she is a very real woman who has
been handling her circumstances by cleaning. At first she is not a
lovable or even very likeable character. Her discovery of herself is
very touching and I did find myself finding Britt-Marie more endearing,
in her prickly out-spoken way.
I adored Backman's My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You
She's Sorry. While I liked this novel very much, for me it wasn't quite as wonderful as My Grandmother, a novel where Britt-Marie
first appeared as a character. It's not that I have anything in
particular that I dislike; it's simply that for all of the things done
right, there are a few drawbacks. It would help if you like soccer. I
don't dislike soccer, but I'm neutral on the sport. The ending was one
of the biggest drawbacks for me. It felt a wee bit contrived and too pat
for me. Perhaps I'm too much of a cynic for this sweet book.
And it is a sweet book. It is charming and It is good feelings and hugs
and chocolate all around, even for those who seem to be unlovable. It is
how one person can make a difference. It encourages us to overlook a
person's flaws and accept them as they are. You will feel Britt-Marie's
pain and you will be sending her warm wishes and sending good thoughts
in her direction. Even though there are parts that are heartbreaking, it
is, at its core, an uplifting, hopeful book.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Atria Books for