Fredrik Backman has scored another hit with his third novel, Britt-Marie Was Here. You remember Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove, a tale of redemption and love of a cantankerous, solitary old man and his neighbors. Ove was a big hit with the customers at the bookshop and worldwide. Britt-Marie may have different foibles but she is the female version of Ove. The charm of the story however overrides the formulaic repetition. One of Backman’s gifts is creating characters distinguished by their difficulty to be loved and yet we end up loving them a lot!
Britt-Marie Was Here is a woman’s book. Britt-Marie’s world has been all about cleaning and organizing (forks, spoons and knives must be properly organized in the cutlery drawer). She abhors change and has lived a cramped life defined by her husband’s needs. When the worst thing happens, Britt-Marie strikes out on her own. She finds her way to a tiny town that is being swallowed up by unemployment and despair. Like Ove, she meets and becomes involved in the lives of her neighbors and that makes all the difference to Britt-Marie and the town. What distinguishes and elevates Britt-Marie to a story especially appealing to women is the inner journey she undertakes as she decides what she is to do with her life. Up until the last page I was not sure which road she would take and I found myself rooting for her all the way. She is rigid, socially awkward, obsessive and deeply wounded, and you’ll find yourself loving her and rooting for her with your whole heart.
And isn’t that the outcome we all want: to be found loveable despite our weaknesses, quirks and annoying habits? Backman’s novels reassure us that we are indeed loveable just the way we are.
Staff of Wellington Square Book Shop