Britt-Marie Was Hereby Fredrik Backman, Henning Koch Published 03 May 2016
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Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes.
When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?
"Britt-Marie Was Here" Reviews
My inauguration into the world of Backman.
I wasn't sure about it for the first 50 pages thinking this character is whacked and do I really want to read about a 64 year old woman who is only just finding herself after years of repression? It turned out, yes I do.
Britt-Marie is a hot mess. She's left her husband - which was well overdue- but is lost in a world nonexistent to others. She's never worked outside of the home and she has cleaning OCD. She's really odd - her thoughts; her behaviours.
She takes a job in Borg - a village dying with businesses closing up but here ironically, is where her life begins.
What a quirky character. Backman's style took a little getting used to - I can see why some readers may have not been riveted. I'm not sure I would have picked this one up if I'd read his others - which I plan on doing. While it did keep my interest, I felt it was just skimming the surface. As for the ending, I don't like coming to my own conclusions.
3* as Britt is a memorable character.
Britt-Marie was Here is the best book I've read this year. Simply put, it is fantastic.
Britt-Marie is difficult, frustrating and socially awkward. She is also insensitive and kind of rude. A minor character in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, Britt-Marie was instantly disliked in that book and is not well liked in the beginning of this one either. However, Fredrik Backman has this endearing way of making old curmudgeons likeable and being extremely successful at it (i.e. Ove and Britt-Marie). Her character, her ocd, her social ineptitude.. they grow on you. Here, we find out why she is the way she is and we discover that, due to her childhood and her marriage, she has felt invisible her whole life. She has trouble figuring out who she really is and is fanatical simply because it is the only thing she can control. Upon losing everything, she decides to find a job and is forced to move to a small town. In the process she finds a sense of humor, discovers that she is capable of making friends and also finds her sense of self.
Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove was one of my favorite books ever. His writing style is smart, funny, quirky and just downright amazing. His characters are rich, well developed and beloved. In addition to Britt-Marie, Vega, Somebody, Bank, Sami and "the girl from the unemployment office" lent heart and soul to the story and gave Britt-Marie exactly what she needed: friends and reasons to go have at it.
I didn't think it was possible for Mr. Backman to write another book that I'd love as much as "Ove" but if truth be told, I love this one more. It was truly phenomenal.
Backman is expert at making me fall in love with his characters -- annoying on the outside, utterly charming on the inside. His better-known book, "A Man Called Ove," has more straightforwardly good and bad characters that are easier to like and dislike, then ending a crowd pleaser. Here he takes on the monumental challenge of nuance -- characters which are both good and bad, endings that are not pat -- & he does admirably.
I am very late to the party for this book and when I saw this in the library, I remembered how so many of my goodreads friends had read and loved this. This is a terrific tale of Britt-Marie who is 63, and who we meet as she tries to get a job because she is afraid no one will notice if she were to die, she keenly feels her isolation and loneliness. It quickly becomes clear that something is wrong from her OCD issues surrounding her manic cleaning and the manner in which she pins down her employment advisor by cooking her dinner. Her perfect world revolves around her husband, Kent, who it becomes clear has been taking her for granted and having an affair. She hasn't been working for years, being a housewife and bringing up Kent's children. She is no longer with Kent and it is going to take her some time to adjust to her new situation.
Britt=Marie finds herself in Borg, with a temporary job as a caretaker of a recreation centre. Borg is a dying town, where everything is closing down. After a few comic setbacks, and the introduction of a great set of characters, Britt-Marie finds herself being the football coach to the children, that include Vega and Omar. There is romantic interest from Sven, the policeman. She gets closer to Sami, who is doing all that he can to look after his siblings. Before you know it, Britt=Marie is opening up, slowly beginning to live life, and is needed, particularly when things take a tragic turn.
A lovely heartwarming, and humorous tale that snags your heartstrings for the broken Britt-Marie who lands in the broken and dying town of Borg. Each needs the other, they complement each other perfectly and both learn to survive despite the numerous obstacles in their paths. This is my first Fredrik Backman novel and I was completely charmed and bowled over by it. Highly recommended and brilliant read.
"There’s a lot you can’t know about a person until you become one with her. What her capabilities are. The courage she has."
I first met Britt-Marie in Backman’s novel My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. She wasn’t exactly loveable in that book, so I was prepared to meet yet another grumpy and somewhat eccentric character in this one. Well, she was just as I imagined she would be! While I thought perhaps I wasn’t going to be inclined to read an entire book about her royal crankypants, my sentiments quickly reversed. What first caught my attention was the humor, despite my qualms about Britt-Marie. Then I slowly began to realize what makes this woman tick - I started to look at the world from her point of view. I came to an understanding; I even nodded my head in agreement at some of her observations. "Britt-Marie can’t for the life of her understand why anyone would choose to practice an outdoor sport while wearing white jerseys. It’s barbaric." I know, right?!! I don’t know how many bottles of Advanced Shout I’ve gone through since my kids began to play soccer! Eventually, I was sucked into the story and wanted to make friends with Britt-Marie.
At the age of sixty-three, Britt-Marie is on her own. She has left behind a cheating husband and is in search of employment for the first time in decades. Arriving in the run-down town of Borg, she may not really be making a step in the right direction. After all, how can one gain a sense of independence when there are very few opportunities and the economy has shut down the majority of the businesses in town? "… the only two noticeable things in Borg are soccer and the pizzeria, because these tend to be the last things to abandon humanity." Here she meets a zany cast of characters (even a rat!) and learns more than she ever fancied about the game of soccer. As the children rally around her, Britt-Marie finds herself in charge of the motley crew that call themselves a team. Then, what began as a light-hearted story turns into a truly heartwarming tale about what it means to stand together despite all odds, learning to forge friendships in the most unlikely places. Fredrik Backman manages to create such endearing characters; ones that won’t soon be forgotten. I have two more of his novels to go, and hope he has many more yet to follow.
"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?"
You see, Britt-Marie does not judge people. No, certainly not. That would be uncivilized.
"Britt-Marie would obviously never consider the woman to be "fat," because Britt-Marie is absolutely not the kind of person who pigeonholes people like that, but it does strike her how wonderful it must be for the woman to go through life so untroubled by her cholesterol levels."
Again, you see, it's just a matter of their being a wrong way to do things and a correct way. A clean, hygienic way. Unfortunately, and quite baffling to Britt-Marie, no one seems to care for, appreciate, or even notice the correct and clean and hygienic way of doing things. For years, Britt-Marie had dinner ready at six o'clock, as any person not raised by wolves would, and her husband Kent never said a word in thanks. He never commented on her carefully crafted hairstyle or paid attention to her superior use of baking soda. Never complimented her cooking without having to be asked first.
"Britt-Marie doesn't know when their marriage slipped out of her hands. When it became worn and scratched up no matter how many coasters were used."
Britt-Marie spent so much her life worrying about what other people thought of her, of how scandalous it would be to have someone see an unmade bed or muddy shoes tracking on the floor, only to realize at age 63 that no one's thought about her much at all. And Kent's been having an affair. For the first time in decades, she's on her own and looking for work.
Borg is the type of town the world forgot. It sits along the side of a highway, gutted and turned into ghost town by the financial crisis (a reasoning Britt-Marie doesn't trust because, after all, Kent said the financial crisis was over, and Kent was an entrepreneur). Britt-Marie is sent there to work a temporary position at the recreation center. Soon she finds herself the coach of a rag tag team of soccer youths, despite having no interest in the sport whatsoever. For the first time in her life, Britt-Marie needs to figure out just who Britt-Marie is when she's not living for someone else.
I'm a fan of Fredrik Backman's particular brand of emotional manipulation, and I very much enjoyed this book. It definitely has similarities to A Man Called Ove although it's not as well-done. I think Ove fans will be very much at home with Britt-Marie.