Book Review: Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie and my empty coffee cup keep each other company.

“If a human being closes her eyes hard enough and for long enough, she can remember pretty well everything that has made her happy.” 

Britt-Marie Was Here

Last night I finished reading Britt-Marie Was Here and officially concluded the last of my Fredrik Backman TBR. Backman is my reliable author; after reading his books, I can say with conviction that I will probably read everything he ever writes. I love him that much. My love affair with his works began on July 9, 2017– the day I officially finished reading Beartown. Now, I know that EVERYONE loves Beartown. I know that it has been hyped and discussed a multitude of times, but it deserves every ounce of the attention it receives. Admittedly, I read Beartown in a post-wisdom tooth extraction daze, which probably impacted my intense emotional response to the novel, and then read Us Against You deep in the throws of my first pregnancy– another emotional danger zone– but I cannot blame any sort of external circumstance for my devotion to both A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Backman is a legend, and if he isn’t, he should be.

Story Background:

The novel begins with Britt-Marie alone for the first time in decades. She is searching for a job after staying at home with her husband and his children, then just her husband, maintaining the matters of the house. Due to the fact that Britt-Marie hasn’t worked recently and has no speakable education, the employment agency is at a loss. However, Britt-Marie is determined–the employment agency sends her to a tiny, dying town in the country to work at the recreation center there.

Britt-Marie hates soccer. She makes no qualms about that. Soccer constantly stole her husband’s attention, and she just doesn’t understand the obsession it creates in people. That being said, the only lively element of Borg (the community in which she is to work) is a Bad News Bears-esque youth soccer team.

As Britt-Marie stays in Borg, she establishes relationships in the most unexpected places, thinking specifically of the rat who shares her dinner table each evening and an endearing police officer. She comes to understand that life is less about the comfort of routine and predictability and more about extending your heart and aid to others– even if the “others” in this scenario is a rag-tag bunch of young soccer players.

Review:

We were introduced to Britt-Marie in the previously mentioned My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, where she was villain-esque, but given a redeeming background later in the story. In this novel, Britt-Marie is center stage. As a character, Britt-Marie is a delight. She has everything required to be lovable: she’s quirky, brash, insecure, caring. She makes foolish decisions, and has an inner dialogue that is both complex and endearing. She’s unique and still an everyman. In short, I love her. I mean, read this excerpt:

“‘What’s your educational background, Britt-Marie?’

Britt-Marie squeezes her handbag. 

‘I’ll have you know that my education is excellent.’

‘But no formal education?’

‘For your information, I solve an enormous number of crosswords. Which is not the thing one can do without an education.’”

Britt-Marie isn’t the only character I loved; virtually everyone who appears in this story is given a charming angle. If you’re a character-driven reader, then this book has that appeal. Worry not, though, plot-driven peers, the story also has great purpose and merit. It has everything: backstory, tolerance, love, devastating tragedy. And, of course, sports.

Based on my description thus far, you might expect it to be a cozy novel, comfortable and sweet. It’s not that simple. There are big questions being answered in this book. What happens when you reach the latter years of your life and decide to begin again? How much does perception matter? To whom does your life belong, really? Is it your own, or do you owe a debt to those you love? What constitutes “family”? And, lastly, what problem can’t be made better with a little baking soda? If you were to ask Britt-Marie, she would likely say this: not many.

Star Review:

Drum roll, please.

.

.

.

✪✪✪✪✪/✪✪✪✪✪

Recommendations:

Okay, so clearly I love this book. I want to recommend it to everyone. BUT I am also aware that people who love dark thrillers and complicated science fiction may not want to read contemporary fiction tales of women over 60. So if you are someone who:

  • hates soccer
  • loves Fredrik Backman’s other works
  • live in a small town
  • dream of living in a small town
  • have been on a bad sports team
  • divorced late in life
  • wanted to talk to animals
  • prefer your home fastidiously clean
  • love contemporary fiction
  • love women’s fiction
  • like a good “book club” novel
  • have liked my previous recommendations

then I can almost guarantee this book will be a hit for you. Or even fit in 10/12 descriptors, I can assume this will be a hit for you. Shoot, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt: 8/12 descriptors. Please, please read this. And then read Fredrik Backman’s other works. And then cry with me as we wait for his next to be released. hej då!

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