Britt-Marie Was Here
A NovelBook - 2016
From the critics
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“One morning you wake up with more life behind you than in front of you, not being able to understand how it’s happened.”
“At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?”
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Have you ever wondered how much influence the mere presence of a person can have in a town? Or if a solitary, eccentricity-ridden woman of a certain age could ever change her story more than half-way through her life?
These are not questions Britt-Marie has ever asked herself, and she certainly would never describe herself as eccentric in any way – what would people think? She is preoccupied by how others might perceive her, yes. She has total faith in baking soda and Faxin to clean just about anything, and is a compulsive list-maker, yes. And cutlery drawers must be arranged in precisely the correct way, yes.
She also had complete trust in and reliance on her husband Kent for forty years. Now that she is alone, Britt-Marie has one quest: to make sure she does not die forgotten. And although her life story – of her mother, her sister, her husband and step-children – is revealed as slowly as air escaping a leaking tire, it is when Britt-Marie finds herself in a dying town called Borg that she really begins to live. It may seem like a meager life, being a caretaker in an old recreation centre, but the reticent residents of Borg and taciturn Britt-Marie are kindred spirits in an odd way, and where kinship blooms, so does hope. Oh, and football, too.
Backman uses football (soccer) as a metaphor for optimism the way Leafs fans would use hockey. But it is his depiction of Britt-Marie that is most admirable, and his readers are gently pulled from irritation with his unlikely heroine into a warm understanding of this woman who has no real understanding of herself. Britt-Marie lives inside her own head with her own peculiar motivations driving her, but Backman almost surreptitiously reveals how the town begins to open up to her, and how – most astonishing to her – Britt-Marie finds herself reciprocating their support.
For fans of Scandinavian literature akin to Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, or for fans of soccer, Fredrik Backman does not disappoint. Both quirky and tender and - Britt-Marie gets her wish – not easily forgotten.
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