Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman – Book Details
TITLE – Britt-Marie Was Here
AUTHOR – Fredrik Backman
YEAR PUBLISHED – 2016
PAGE COUNT – 324
MY RATING – 4.5 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 4.07 of 5
What It Is About
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?
Britt-Marie is a perfectly orderly sixty-three-year-old lady who often feels like she’s not on the same page with the world around her. After a life changing course of events that have completely upended her life, she decides to get a job and start over.
Except – finding a new job and moving to another place for it proves to be quite challenging. Especially when that place turns out to be a dying little town that should have already vanished if there weren’t for a handful of stubborn locals.
It is certainly a change of scenery for Britt-Marie, as she is tasked to be the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished community center and a coach of an enthusiastic but untalented children’s soccer team. But it’s only through the challenges that we get to learn who we really are and what we are made of…
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman – My Review
She wonders how much space a person has left in her soul to change herself, once she gets older. What people does she still have to meet, what will they see in her, and what will they make her see in herself?
I don’t know if there’ll ever come a day when I’ll get bored of saying how much I love Fredrik Backman, but that day is not today. At this point, his only novel I haven’t read is My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. And with the exception of The Deal of a Lifetime (don’t know what happened there), all his other books are among the very top of my favorites of all time.
Britt-Marie Was Here – man, it came at such a perfect moment for me. I needed something wholesome but easy to get through. And this book felt like a warm hug.
I mean, for once, Britt-Marie was such a precious, must-be-protected-at-all-costs protagonist. From the description she sounded like she is going to be a very unlikable character, but this is not how unlikeable looks like in my world.
Britt-Marie is very proud of the notes. She has written them in ink. Anyone who knows Britt-Marie understands what an outstanding achievement it is for Britt-Marie to control her compulsion never to write anything in ink. People really do change when they travel.
Though charming and lovable, Britt-Marie is also stubborn, outspoken, cleaning-obsessed lady, opinionated and with too many rules about how everyone should be. She is not a bad person. But she can be very rigid when it comes to her views on order and “normality”.
And if that sounds like someone you might want to smack in the face, just wait until this old ‘fuddy-fart’ warms her way into your heart. And becomes one of the most wholesome protagonists you’ve ever had a pleasure to meet.
Britt-Marie spent her whole life taking care of others, being a daughter, a wife and a stepmother. Now, at the age of 63, she finally started to realize how lonely and isolated she’s been the whole time. No one seems to really know her, no one is even trying to understand her.
And her biggest fear is that she’ll die one day alone and no one will even notice.
You’re never quite alone when you can stand on a balcony – you have all the cars and houses and the people in the streets. You’re among them, but also not. That’s the best thing about balconies.
After she was put in a position that she can’t ignore her husband’s cheating anymore, Britt-Marie finally decided to radically change her life. And to learn to take care of herself. But big changes can be hard even in the best circumstances. Much less with someone used to rigidly control every single little thing about themselves and their surroundings.
Britt-Marie’s obsessiveness borders with OCD. It’s her only way to bring some order into a life that’s always been shaped by other people. Her willingness to accommodate has always been taken for granted and abused. Her own needs and dreams overlooked.
Now, for the first time in her life, Britt-Marie has no one to orbit around. She is literally forced to make her life about herself. But after 63 years of playing secondary roles in your own life, where do you even start discovering who you really are?
A human being, any human being at all, has so perishingly few chances to stay right there, to let go of time and fall into the moment. And to love someone without measure, explode with passion.
I love how Backman always portraits characters that don’t quite fit into the usual description of an average, “socially competent” people. But by the end of the book he shows you they actually have more humanity in them than they are given credit for.
And the setting – a dying little town where everything is closing. Where the pizzeria serves as a bar, minimart, post office, car repair shop… But where the few remaining citizens know and appreciate the fact it’s the only place they can call home.
I mean, it’s easy to love beautiful, successful, upcoming places. But it’s only the places (and people) with soul that you can love no matter what.
And one more thing I love in Backman’s books – sport plays a huge role in many of them, but it’s never really about the sport. Here, soccer is one of the main plot points. But it is really only a metaphor, a creative way to describe certain parts of the character’s personalities.
If you support Tottenham you always give more love than you get back. Tottenham is the worst kind of bad team, because they’re almost good. They always promise that they’re going to be fantastic. They make you hope. So you go on loving them and they carry on finding more and more innovative ways of disappointing you.
Britt-Marie Was Here was a deep, meaningful and thought-provoking read. But it was also filled with quirky, funny characters and many comical setback. It added lightness to the story that otherwise might have been a hard one to get through.
This is a story about the need to be needed, and for someone to notice you are there. About simple but essential desires, like for someone to say “The dinner was nice.” without you having to ask. For someone to notice when you are gone.
It’s about wanting to leave a mark, even a tiny one, in this world and in other people’s lives. For you to truly be here and for it to matter. And who can’t relate to that?
You love football because it is instinctive. If a ball comes rolling down the street you give it a punt. You love it for the same reason you fall in love. Because you don’t know how to avoid it.
So, if you’ve never read anything by Fredrik Backman before, Britt-Marie Was Here is as good one as any to start. And if you have read him before, what can I tell you? You know what to expect.
The only thing is – I wouldn’t recommend reading Backman’s novels too close one after another. He has a strong storytelling pattern and his protagonists have a lot in common with each other. As a result, his stories can sound a bit repetitive.
However, if you haven’t read a Backman in a while and you miss his charming ways to remind you of everything that matters in this life – Britt-Marie Was Here offers just that. And it was an absolute pleasure spending my time with it.