Book Title: My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologies
Author: Fredrik Backman
It was with a happy sense of anticipation that I picked up this book. I’d loved A Man Called Ove and had turned quite a Backman fan. Plus the title conjured up cosy warm images of a sweet eccentric old woman.
Elsa is an almost eight-year old whose only friend in the whole world is her cantankerous rebellious granny. They are both ‘different’ and ‘difficult’. Since when Elsa was a baby her grandmother tells her the story of the Land-of-Almost-Awake, an imaginary land which has five different kingdoms. There are trolls, dragons and snow angels in these kingdoms as well as monsters and deadly shadows.
When Elsa’s granny passes away she leaves behind a bunch of letters to be delivered to people who live in their apartment complex. Elsa gets these letters one at a time through a treasure hunt. Each of them is designed to help her get to know the residents, to perhaps form a connection with them. As she does that, the imaginary and real worlds come together and help mend her broken heart not only brining her closer to her own family but also forming a large extended one.
The premise of this book, the idea of it, is absolutely fantastic. The execution, however, fell far short of my expectations. I had a hard time ploughing through this one. To begin with I couldn’t get myself to really like either Elsa, who is precocious and much too grown up for her age, or her granny. That Elsa is a Harry Potter fan redeemed her just a tiny little bit but I couldn’t make myself feel for her at all. She seemed to know and understand more grown up thoughts and feelings than all the grown ups in the story.
Then there was Granny. She was just annoying, and not in a sweet funny way (like Ove). A lot of her sequences seemed to be written with the deliberate idea of making her sound crazy. They made for great quotable quotes but did little to make her likeable. She passes away early in the book, but in the bit that we get to see, she is irrational and unpleasant to everyone (except Elsa).
Granny didn’t make sense to me. We get a glimpse of her younger days through accounts from other characters. Apparently she had been a conscientious doctor and had touched many lives through her courage and compassion and had forged unbreakable connections. The two images – the passionate doctor and crazy granny – just didn’t come together for me.
She is also said to have struggled with guilt because she couldn’t spend enough time with Elsa’s mom, Ulrika. If she did regret it, I thought she would have tried to make up for it in some way. However, all she does is make life difficult for the pregnant Ulrika, who was my favourite character in the book – harried yet struggling to keep her cool with very little help from either Elsa or Granny.
Then there was the Land-of-Almost-Awake. I started out loving the concept of all these imaginary characters finding parallels in real life. But that became my greatest gripe. The imaginary lands were just too many and they got so very complicated that I couldn’t keep track. Rather than adding to the story, they slowed down its progress unbearably, till it became one big confusing mess.
The end was somewhat interesting but by then I just wanted the book to finish.
Oh and Britt Marie is a side character in the book. Britt Marie Was Here was on my TBR but now I’m wondering if it’s worth it.
This one was a waste of a great idea.
Last thought: You can give this one a miss.