Britt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman
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I have tried twice now to write a review for this book, and I just can’t figure out how to get my thoughts in order. Britt-Marie Was Here is the type of book that needs to be discussed not reviewed. (does that even make sense?)
I recently joined my Mom’s book club and this is the book they chose for January. We meet the 3rd Wednesday of every month, so my first meeting will be in two days! I am super excited and a little nervous. I thought about waiting until after the meeting to write my review but I wanted to get all my thoughts in order before then. But, like I said above, this is proving difficult. So instead of a normal review I am going to just throw all my thoughts out there and sort of have a discussion with myself.
Also, because this is a discussion not a review, I am going to actually discuss the book, so there will probably be spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book then you should probably stop reading this post.
This isn’t normally the type of book I would choose for myself. Especially lately, I have been gravitating toward fast, action, fantasy books. This was a complete 180 from that, but I still really enjoyed it
Lost in translation?
It took me a while to get used to the writing style of this book. I have no idea how to explain it, but here is an excerpt:
“After leaving the unemployment office, Britt-Marie goes to a supermarket that is not her usual supermarket, where she buys everything on her list. She doesn’t like shopping on her own, because she doesn’t like pushing the shopping cart. Kent always pushes the shopping cart while Britt-Marie walks at his side and holds on to a corner of it. Not because she’s trying to steer, only that she likes holding on to things while he is also holding on to them. For the sake of that feeling they are going somewhere at the same time.”
Its kind of choppy and sometimes out of order. I have no idea if this is because it is translated or if it is that way on purpose? It was originally written in Swedish. This is the first time, outside of school, that I have read a translated book (that I know of?)
The beginning of the book was slow, and depressing. (actually the whole book was kind of sad) It took a while for me to really get into it, but after Chapter 9 I read the rest of the book in one sitting (there were 38 chapters) Once I got into it, I was really into it! I needed to figure out what happened to all the characters.
People aren’t always what they seem
My favorite quote from the book:
“Vega’s afraid, even though she mainly seems angry. Omar is angry, though you’d probably think he was afraid.”
It re-iterates the fact that you have to really look to see who people are. Everyone loves Kent at first and noone likes Britt-Marie. But eventually people see through Kent and love Britt-Marie. Sami is originally mistaken as a hoodlum. The unemployment girl has two daughters. Bank originally comes off as a completely awful person. Even the girl at the council building doesn’t do anything but pour unwanted coffee the first time we meet her, but she ends up being an important part of getting the pitch built. Every person has different layers, and every character is important and well rounded.
Here is another quote:
Britt-Marie doesn’t judge anyone. Far from it. But Who would behave like that?
All throughout the book, Britt-Marie thinks things and then its clarified that she isn’t judging, that she isn’t prejudice, or that she doesn’t care about things like that. I think in a weird way that it is super important that she has these thoughts. In my opinion, it is incredibly hard to overcome prejudices, but I think its super important to try. You can’t suddenly stop your self from thinking that a girl has a very boy haircut, you can’t stop yourself from judging when someone doesn’t offer you a coaster, you can’t suddenly decide to love football (soccer). But, you can keep your thoughts to yourself, you can accept other people despite your initial thoughts, and you can learn to love a sport you thought you hated. Its a slow process, but you can change your prejudices.
I love that there is so much symbolism around the soccer team you root for. Fans of Liverpool are always optimistic and waiting for things to turn around. Fans of United Manchester are used to winning and feel like it is owed to them. (Those are the only two I remember off the top of my head but there were at least two more.) I usually don’t get symbolism in books so the author pretty much hits you over the head with this one, but I love it anyway.
I really really dislike Kent, and I am super glad that Britt-Marie didn’t choose him. One of the biggest things that annoyed me was that he kept referring to the “other woman” as a one time mistake, but Britt-Marie knew about it long before his heart attack. Just because it was always with the same girl doesn’t mean it was only a one time mistake. He just made the same choice over and over again. And it didn’t even occur to Britt-Marie to contradict him! This really bugged me.
Out Loud Emotions
This book is sad. Its happy too, but there are a lot of sad parts. I cried a lot (which is not unusual for me while reading sad books) But what was unusual was that I actually laughed out loud a lot while reading. (I almost never do that) The humor in the book was dry and witty and usually completely unexpected. (I scared my dogs when I laughed out loud, they aren’t used to me doing that!)
I really hate it when books leave the ending open for interpretation. I like everything all cleaned up and finalized. I’m pretty sure she went to Paris, but then what? Did she keep traveling? Did she go back to Borg? She better not go back to Kent!! I liked Sven well enough, but I think Britt-Marie still needs to explore being her own person. I wanted her to become guardians of Vega and Omar, but I understand that it would defeat the purpose of her learning to live on her own. But still! The author could have closed it much better!!!!
So overall I liked the book. Really my only complaints are the slow start and the open ending. But the middle was good! I would definitely recommend this for a book club read because I feel like it needs to be discussed! Depending on how my first book club meeting goes I might do another post. If there is anything I feel like I completely missed, or if someone makes a point that changes my mind I will let you know!
Have you read Britt-Marie Was Here? What did you think of it? Do you want to discuss it?