After much deliberation, I decided to read Anxious People. It had been on my TBR for the longest time but I kept putting it off because I couldn’t bear to be disappointed. There has been so much hype about Backman, and more specifically, about the book that I was almost afraid to pick it up.Continue reading
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.
I finally finished reading My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologies by Fredrik Backman and it is full of interesting quotable quotes. Here’s one that caught my eye and is so full of wisdom.
Granny then said the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit. The hard part of life is keeping as much on the not-a-shit side as one can.
The language might not be quite kosher but granny does have a point.
If you’ve been dropping by here you’ll know I used to do Teaser Tuesdays. Well with my rather disorganised reading/writing/blogging pattern I struggled with getting the post up on Tuesdays. And so I thought I’d just go with #BookBytes. The idea remains the same except I can post any day of the week.
You can join in too. If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage that leaps out at you demanding to be shared don’t ignore it. Share it on your blog. Leave a link in the comments and I’ll drop by.
Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Some books leave you in a warm fuzzy haze that stays like a happy feeling in your heart for a long time. A Man called Ove did that to me.
This is the story..
…. of 59 year old Ove. He is the quintessential angry old man, a confirmed cynic who trusts few, believes in nothing and loves no one – or so it seems. The one person he loved was his wife. He talks to her at her grave as he waits to joins her in the next world. Even as he is planning to hasten his entry into that next world, a young family comes to stay in his neighbourhood. That’s when his plans begin to go awry and suddenly he seems to have no control over his life. He doesn’t change. Men like Ove never do. So how does an irritating, unpleasant, foul mouthed old man find himself, not just friends, but an entire family who refuse to leave him alone?
What I loved
I’ve seen old men like Ove – men who are forever critiszing the ‘system’, writing lengthy complaint letters, pulling up people for not doing things just so. I’ve seen them. And yet Ove is special because beneath the constant grumpiness and the name-calling lies something else – something so endearing and kind and funny that you cannot but love him, perhaps like a beloved angry old grandfather.
I’m gushing, I know, but I did like him. I loved Ove’s love for his wife. That’s what got my attention first. We get to read their story much later, but I liked that he talks to her all the time. All he does is complain, of course, but he talks. He haggles obstinately with the flower seller but he never fails to take her flowers.
Other than that, what made Ove likeable is that he has a kind heart. He might curse and rant but he cannot stop himself from lending a hand when people need him. He cannot bring himself to be outright cruel even to the dog who pees at his door step everyday.
What’s more, there are other characters to love and hate in the book. There’s the very bossy and very pregnant Parvaneh, her extremely clumsy husband Patrick, Ove’s neighbour, friend and enemy, Rune, and so very many more. Ove makes up his own rude names for people he meets – The Lanky One, The Pregnant One, the lunchbox eater, Blonde Weed and so on.
The writing is beautiful – in bits insightful and funny. You want to read, re-read and savour bits of it. I ended up highlighting and saving away half the book. Do read the lines I’ve picked out and you’ll know what I mean.
On Ove and his wife:
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
On his falling out with his best friend
Maybe their sorrow over the children that never came should have brought the two men closer. But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.
True, isn’t it?
And a funny one:
“He must be close to six and a half feet tall. Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.”
And I’ve saved the best for the last.
Her laughter catches him off guard. As if it’s carbonated and someone has poured it too fast and it’s bubbling over in all directions. It doesn’t fit at all with the gray cement and right-angled garden paving stones. It’s an untidy, mischievous laugh that refuses to go along with rules and prescriptions.
Final thought: Gladly, unhesitatingly five shining stars to this one. Do read it.
The man behind the book
Like I do for most books I fall in love with, I looked up Fredrik Backman, the Swedish author of this book. In case your curiosity is piqued too you can check out this article here. It’s worth a read.
Click on the link below to buy A Man Called Ove at Amazon.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you.