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?
Funny and moving, sweet and inspiring, Britt-Marie Was Here celebrates the importance of community and connection in a world that can feel isolating.
|Publisher:||Washington Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
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Britt-Marie Was Here
Forks. Knives. Spoons.
In that order.
Britt-Marie is certainly not the kind of person who judges other people. Far from it.
But surely no civilized person would even think of arranging a cutlery drawer in a different way from how cutlery drawers are supposed to be arranged?
We’re not animals, are we?
It’s a Monday in January. She’s sitting at a desk in the unemployment office. Admittedly there’s no cutlery in sight, but it’s on her mind because it sums up everything that’s gone wrong recently. Cutlery should be arranged as it always has been, because life should go on unchanged. Normal life is presentable. In normal life you clean up the kitchen and keep your balcony tidy and take care of your children. It’s hard work—harder than one might think. In normal life you certainly don’t find yourself sitting in the unemployment office.
The girl who works here has staggeringly short hair, Britt-Marie thinks, like a man’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course—it’s modern, no doubt. The girl points at a piece of paper and smiles, evidently in a hurry.
“Just fill in your name, social security number, and address here, please.”
Britt-Marie has to be registered. As if she were a criminal. As if she has come to steal a job rather than find one.
“Milk and sugar?” the girl asks, pouring some coffee into a plastic mug.
Britt-Marie doesn’t judge anyone. Far from it. But who would behave like that? A plastic mug! Are we at war? She’d like to say just that to the girl, but because Kent is always urging Britt-Marie to “be more socially aware” she just smiles as diplomatically as she can and waits to be offered a coaster.
Kent is Britt-Marie’s husband. He’s an entrepreneur. Incredibly, incredibly successful. Has business dealings with Germany and is extremely, extremely socially aware.
The girl offers her two tiny disposable cartons of the sort of milk that doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge. Then she holds out a plastic mug with plastic teaspoons protruding from it. Britt-Marie could not have looked more startled if she’d been offered roadkill.
She shakes her head and brushes her hand over the table as if it was covered in invisible crumbs. There are papers everywhere, in any old order. The girl clearly doesn’t have time to tidy them up, Britt-Marie realizes—she’s probably far too busy with her career.
“Okay,” says the girl pleasantly, turning back to the form, “just write your address here.”
Britt-Marie fixes her gaze on her lap. She misses being at home with her cutlery drawer. She misses Kent, because Kent is the one who fills in all the forms.
When the girl looks like she’s about to open her mouth again, Britt-Marie interrupts her.
“You forgot to give me a coaster,” says Britt-Marie, smiling, with all the social awareness she can muster. “I don’t want to make marks on your table. Could I trouble you to give me something to put my . . . coffee cup on?”
She uses that distinctive tone, which Britt-Marie relies on whenever she has to summon all her inner goodness, to refer to it as a “cup” even though it is a plastic mug.
“Oh, don’t worry, just put it anywhere.”
As if life was as simple as that. As if using a coaster or organizing the cutlery drawer in the right order didn’t matter. The girl—who clearly doesn’t appreciate the value of coasters, or proper cups, or even mirrors, judging by her hairstyle—taps her pen against the paper, by the “address” box.
“But surely we can’t just put our cups on the table? That leaves marks on a table, surely you see that.”
The girl glances at the surface of the desk, which looks as if toddlers have been trying to eat potatoes off it. With pitchforks. In the dark.
“It really doesn’t matter; it’s so old and scratched up already!” she says with a smile.
Britt-Marie is screaming inside.
“I don’t suppose you’ve considered that it’s because you don’t use coasters,” she mutters, not at all in a “passive-aggressive” way, which is how Kent’s children once described her when they thought she wasn’t listening. Britt-Marie is not actually passive-aggressive. She’s considerate. After she heard Kent’s children saying she was passive-aggressive she was extra considerate for several weeks.
The unemployment office girl looks a little strained. “Okay . . . what did you say your name was? Britt, right?”
“Britt-Marie. Only my sister calls me Britt.”
“Okay, Britt-Marie, if you could just fill in the form. Please.”
Britt-Marie peers at the paper, which requires her to give assurances about where she lives and who she is. An unreasonable amount of paperwork is required these days just to be a human being. A preposterous amount of administration for society to let one take part. In the end she reluctantly fills in her name, social security number, and her cell phone number. The address box is left empty.
“What’s your educational background, Britt-Marie?”
Britt-Marie squeezes her handbag.
“I’ll have you know that my education is excellent.”
“But no formal education?”
“For your information, I solve an enormous number of crosswords. Which is not the sort of thing one can do without an education.”
She takes a very small gulp of the coffee. It doesn’t taste like Kent’s coffee at all. Kent makes very good coffee. Everyone says so. Britt-Marie takes care of the coasters and Kent takes care of the coffee.
“Okay . . . what sort of life experience do you have?”
“My latest employment was as a waitress. I had outstanding references.”
The girl looks hopeful. “And when was that?”
“Ah . . . and you haven’t worked since then?”
“I have worked every day since then. I’ve helped my husband with his company.”
Again the girl looks hopeful. “And what sorts of tasks did you perform in the company?”
“I took care of the children and saw to it that our home was presentable.”
The girl smiles to hide her disappointment, as people do when they don’t have the ability to distinguish between “a place to live” and “a home.” It’s actually thoughtfulness that makes the difference. Because of thoughtfulness there are coasters and proper coffee cups and beds that are made so tightly in the mornings that Kent jokes with his acquaintances about how, if you stumble on the threshold on your way into the bedroom, there’s “a smaller risk of breaking your leg if you land on the floor than the bedspread.” Britt-Marie loathes it when he talks that way. Surely civilized people lift their feet when they walk across bedroom thresholds?
Whenever Britt-Marie and Kent go away, Britt-Marie sprinkles the mattress with baking soda for twenty minutes before she makes the bed. The baking soda absorbs dirt and humidity, leaving the mattress much fresher. Baking soda helps almost everything, in Britt-Marie’s experience. Kent usually complains about being late; Britt-Marie clasps her hands together over her stomach and says: “I absolutely must be allowed to make the bed before we leave, Kent. Just imagine if we die!”
This is the actual reason why Britt-Marie hates traveling. Death. Not even baking soda has any effect on death. Kent says she exaggerates, but people do actually drop dead all the time when they’re away, and what would the landlord think if they had to break down the door only to find an unclean mattress? Surely they’d conclude that Kent and Britt-Marie lived in their own dirt?
The girl checks her watch.
“Okay,” she says.
Britt-Marie feels her tone has a note of criticism in it.
“The children are twins and we have a balcony. It’s more work than you think, having a balcony.”
The girl nods tentatively.
“How old are your children?”
“Kent’s children. They’re thirty.”
“So they’ve left home?”
“And you’re sixty-three years old?”
“Yes,” says Britt-Marie dismissively, as if this was highly irrelevant.
The girl clears her throat as if, actually, it’s very relevant indeed.
“Well, Britt-Marie, quite honestly, because of the financial crisis and all that, I mean, there’s a scarcity of jobs for people in your . . . situation.”
The girl sounds a bit as if “situation” was not her first choice as a way of concluding the sentence. Britt-Marie smiles patiently.
“Kent says that the financial crisis is over. He’s an entrepreneur, you must understand. So he understands these kind of things, which are possibly a little outside your field of competence.”
The girl blinks for an unnecessary amount of time. Checks her watch. She seems uncomfortable, which vexes Britt-Marie. She quickly decides to give the girl a compliment, just to show her goodwill. She looks around the room for something to compliment her about, and finally manages to say, with as generous a smile as she can muster:
“You have a very modern hairstyle.”
“What? Oh. Thanks,” she replies, her fingertips moving self-consciously towards her scalp.
“It’s very courageous of you to wear your hair so short when you have such a large forehead.”
Why does the girl look offended? Britt-Marie wonders. Clearly that’s what happens when you try to be sociable towards young people these days. The girl rises from her chair.
“Thanks for coming, Britt-Marie. You are registered in our database. We’ll be in touch!”
She holds out her hand to say good-bye. Britt-Marie stands up and places the plastic mug of coffee in her hand.
“Well, it’s difficult to say.”
“I suppose I’m supposed to just sit and wait,” counters Britt-Marie with a diplomatic smile, “as if I didn’t have anything better to do?”
The girl swallows.
“Well, my colleague will be in touch with you about a jobseekers’ training course, an—”
“I don’t want a course. I want a job.”
“Absolutely, but it’s difficult to say when something will turn up. . . .”
Britt-Marie takes a notebook from her pocket.
“Shall we say tomorrow, then?”
“Could something turn up tomorrow?”
The girl clears her throat.
“Well, it could, or I’d rather . . .”
Britt-Marie gets a pencil from her bag, eyes the pencil with some disapproval, and then looks at the girl.
“Might I trouble you for a pencil sharpener?” she asks.
“A pencil sharpener?” asks the girl, as if she had been asked for a thousand-year-old magical artifact.
“I need to put our meeting on the list.”
Some people don’t understand the value of lists, but Britt-Marie is not one of those people. She has so many lists that she has to keep a separate list to list all the lists. Otherwise anything could happen. She could die. Or forget to buy baking soda.
The girl offers her a pen and says something to the effect of, “Actually I don’t have time tomorrow,” but Britt-Marie is too busy peering at the pen to hear what she’s saying.
“Surely we can’t write lists in ink?” she bursts out.
“That’s all I’ve got.” The girl says this with some finality. “Is there anything else I can help you with today, Britt-Marie?”
“Ha,” Britt-Marie responds after a moment.
Britt-Marie often says that. “Ha.” Not as in “ha-ha” but as in “aha,” spoken in a particularly disappointed tone. Like when you find a wet towel thrown on the bathroom floor.
“Ha.” Immediately after saying this, Britt-Marie always firmly closes her mouth, to emphasize this is the last thing she intends to say on the subject. Although it rarely is the last thing.
The girl hesitates. Britt-Marie grasps the pen as if it’s sticky. Looks at the list marked “Tuesday” in her notebook, and, at the top, above “Cleaning” and “Shopping,” she writes “Unemployment office to contact me.”
She hands back the pen.
“It was very nice to meet you,” says the girl robotically. “We’ll be in touch!”
“Ha,” says Britt-Marie with a nod.
Britt-Marie leaves the unemployment office. The girl is obviously under the impression that this is the last time they’ll meet, because she’s unaware of how scrupulously Britt-Marie sticks to her lists. Clearly the girl has never seen Britt-Marie’s balcony.
It’s an astonishingly, astonishingly presentable balcony.
It’s January outside, a winter chill in the air but no snow on the ground—below freezing without any evidence of it being so. The very worst time of year for balcony plants.
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.
She eats her dinner cold at exactly six o’clock. She’s used to sitting up all night waiting for Kent, so she tries to put his portion in the fridge. But the only fridge here is full of very small bottles of alcohol. She lowers herself onto a bed that isn’t hers, while rubbing her ring finger, a habit she falls into when she’s nervous.
A few days ago she was sitting on her own bed, spinning her wedding ring, after cleaning the mattress extra carefully with baking soda. Now she’s rubbing the white mark on her skin where the ring used to be.
The building has an address, but it’s certainly neither a place to live nor a home. On the floor are two rectangular plastic boxes for balcony flowers, but the hostel room doesn’t have a balcony. Britt-Marie has no one to sit up all night waiting for.
But she sits up anyway.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Britt-Marie Was Here includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Britt-Marie is an acquired taste. It’s not that she’s judgmental, or fussy, or difficult—she just expects things to be done a certain way. She has maintained a perfectly organized life in Stockholm, Sweden, with her husband, Kent, for forty years, making sure his shirts are pressed, their apartment is spotless, and that they never run out of baking soda or her favorite brand of window cleaner. But when Britt-Marie discovers that Kent has been unfaithful and her perfectly organized life suddenly becomes perfectly disorganized, she does something bold: she leaves.
Finding herself in the backwater town of Borg, Sweden—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—as the caretaker of a recreation center slated for demolition, Britt-Marie is soon being challenged, surprised, and coaxed out of her comfort zone in all sorts of ways. As she discovers more about Borg and its oddball residents, she also discovers more about herself. Behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward, pedantic busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes. When Kent turns up on her doorstep one day, Britt-Marie must decide what she truly wants: to return to her old life, to make a new life in Borg, or to embark on an entirely different path.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. How is Britt-Marie’s character revealed by her interactions with the people in Borg? In what ways do Borg’s citizens change Britt-Marie? Use specific examples to demonstrate your point.
2. Think about the children on Borg’s soccer team: to what extent are they responsible for Britt-Marie’s growth, and how? Does one particular child have greater influence on Britt-Marie than the others? If so, who, and why?
3. Describe the book’s narrative style. How would you characterize it? How does it play into your perception of Britt-Marie, or influence your understanding of events?
4. “She has difficulties remembering the last time she said anything at all, until one day she left him without a word. Because of this it always feels like the whole thing was her fault” (page 151). Communication plays an important role in any relationship, and Britt-Marie’s reflection on her own silence raises a curious point; to what extent do you think Britt-Marie contributed to the unraveling of her and Kent’s relationship with her silence? How much blame, if any, can fall on the shoulders of only one person in these cases?
5. Britt-Marie is a curious combination of strength and assertiveness mixed with anxiety and shyness. How are these seemingly opposing qualities related to each other in Britt-Marie, like two sides of the same coin?
6. How have Britt-Marie’s experiences as a girl and a young woman made her into the woman she is at the start of the novel? Did learning about her childhood change the way you felt about her as a character? Is there a larger message here about forming judgments of people we encounter without knowing their full story?
7. When we first meet her, Britt-Marie seems to be a fairly traditional, conservative person, yet in the course of the novel she is exposed to many issues and situations that previously didn’t enter her life as Kent’s wife. Consider her reaction to Ben’s date with another boy, or her visit to a prison, or her encounter with a masked gunman. How do these moments affect Britt-Marie? What can they tell us about who she is and about the community she’s joined in Borg?
8. Despite its often humorous tone, this book touches on complicated real-world situations and issues like the economic downturn, social class, the state of the modern family, and children’s rights. What impact has the economic downturn had on Borg? Did the novel cause you to think differently about the power of individuals to have a positive impact on their communities?
9. Consider the role of soccer in this story. What does soccer represent to the citizens of Borg, particularly to the children? In a world marked by instability and uncertainty, why is this sport so important to them?
10. Throughout the book, the team that an individual supports plays a role in the way that person is perceived by others and often tells a lot about him or her. Can you think of analogous scenarios in your own life where you have made certain assumptions about a person because of something he or she is passionate about?
11. Why do you think Britt-Marie decides to call the girl from the unemployment office to tell her that one of the children on the soccer team hit what he was aiming for? What does this moment signify for Britt-Marie?
12. “What is love if it’s not loving our lovers even when they don’t deserve it” (page 283). Do you agree with this statement, or does love without limits tend to lead to a relationship like Britt-Marie and Kent’s at the start of the novel?
13. Why do you think that Kent decides to fight for Britt-Marie’s soccer pitch? Do you believe he’s really a changed man?
14. Why do you think Britt-Marie ultimately makes the choice she does at the end of the story? What was the deciding moment, the impetus for her choice?
15. Do you think Britt-Marie will ever come back to Borg?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Write an epilogue about what happens next for Britt-Marie. Share with the group, and explain why you came up with this specific set of events.
2. Have a dinner Britt-Marie would love! Look up recipes for traditional Swedish food and invite members to prepare a few dishes to share while you discuss the book. One of many sources for classic Swedish dishes can be found online at https://sweden.se/collection/classic-swedish-food.
3. Have a debate. Split into two groups: one side in favor of Kent, the other in favor of Sven. Discuss the merits of each and try to persuade the room which man is best suited for Britt-Marie.
4. Britt-Marie and Kent also appear in Fredrik Backman’s previous novel My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Read it with your book club to learn more about their characters. You can also read Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. Consider how Ove and Britt-Marie tend to interact with other people and how they deal with difficult situations. How would you describe each of their philosophies of life? Make a list of some qualities they have in common, and of some ways in which they are very different from each other.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The book cover said Britt-Marie was 63 and the author is Swedish. I am nearly that age and I am Norwegian. So I thought this would suit me. I found that it will suit EVERYONE. If I had binge read this I would have finished it in a day. I had to resist the urge so that I could do the things I was supposed to do (housework, work, sleeping etc.) When you first meet Britt-Marie (not Britt) you must resist the urge to walk away. If you walk away you will miss one of the best books out there. Fredrik Backman has another bestseller here. Unloved, unappreciated, unnoticed, unusual. This describes Britt-Marie and the "town" of Borg where she unexpectedly arrives for employment. Newly liberated (but she would not consider herself that) Britt-Marie finds herself in a community that needs something. It's not a town, it's just a group of buildings on a road filled with the remains of a trucking hub. She's come to fulfill a position in the recreation center which is a building with a name but no longer purposed. She is immediately struck (literally) by the children present outside. Britt-Marie has been described as socially awkward. This is an understatement. From first meeting to the end, this book is centered around the ways in which the community and Britt-Marie unwittingly contribute to each others self discovery and survival. What struck me most about this book was the many short phrases or bits of dialog that took my breath away. I would stop and reread them to make sure they sunk in. I am assuming the book was written in Swedish first. Either the author translated this into English himself or he has one of the best translators in the business. Those phrases, and truly the flow of the whole book, still carry the weight of the emotions found in a so called emotionless character. It's palpable and heart-tuggingly beautiful. I was also struck by how each of the characters (and there are many wonderful ones) are introduced to the story through Britt-Maries eyes. This is such a simple story and yet rife with the circumstances that make our lives chaotic and therefore not simple at all. I would recommend this book to all readers, including young teens. It has a lesson for all of us. Don't miss it. And then go out and buy some good window cleaner.
Will now be of my all time favorites
Lovely, amusing (sometimes even laugh out loud funny) and touching tale of how are lives are shaped and we are created as individuals. There are few individuals quite as unique as Britt-Marie but I’m sure that a lot of us will see bits of ourselves in her as she shapes a new life after leaving her husband. She struggles against the inevitable change because ‘she is not that sort of person’...but change like life itself comes at you whether you want it or not.
I was introduced to Fredrik Backman in June, 2015, when I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of his second novel, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. As I said in my review, I loved that book and promptly ran out to find his first book, A Man Called Ove, which was also a 5-star read for me. That's two 5-star ratings of the 26 I awarded last year (out of a total of 218 books read) for the same author: pretty impressive! Not surprisingly, then, I was looking for an equally engaging reading experience when I picked up Britt-Marie Was Here. While it was a fine book, it did not measure up to its predecessors. Backman's writing is always lighthearted, which I thoroughly enjoy, but in this case, he slipped over the edge to twee on several occasions. More importantly, though, I started the book already disliking Britt-Marie, who was a minor, but unpleasant, character in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. In that book, she was an obsessive-compulsive doormat of a wife, and she doesn't improve much after separating from her adulterous husband. I have been happily married for 30 years, but my best friend recently divorced under similar circumstances, so I have some secondhand understanding of Britt-Marie's reluctance (or outright inability) to move on. But when she's still refusing tacos because "Kent doesn't eat foreign food" 120 pages later, I've lost what little patience I had. For a book which is supposed to be about Britt-Marie's "transformation," she doesn't seem to change very much. Nevertheless, Britt-Marie Was Here deserves to be read just for Backman's hilarious descriptions of people and places. Among my favorites: "The girl glances at the surface of the desk, which looks as if toddlers have been trying to eat potatoes off it. With pitchforks. In the dark. Borg is a community built along a road. That’s really the kindest possible thing one can say about it. Somebody has one of the worst hairstyles Britt-Marie has ever laid eyes on, as if she’s combed her hair with a terrified animal. People sometimes refer to darkness as something that falls, but in places like Borg it doesn’t just fall, it collapses. It hits the streets like an epidemic." Verdict: Those unfamiliar with Backman's prior works will find Britt-Marie Was Here more enjoyable than existing fans with high (perhaps unreasonably so) expectations, but it's still a fun read. I received a free copy of Britt-Marie Was Here from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Plenty of unexpected laughs from this precious character. She is wound tight, but she gets it. Britt Marie proves that all of us have very great potential, whatever is our perspective on life.
This book is a new favorite.
“’Welcome to Borg’, Britt-Marie reads, while she sits on a stool in the darkness and looks at the red dot that first made her fall in love with the picture. The reason for her love of maps. It’s half worn away, the dot, and the red colour is bleached. Yet it’s there, flung down there on the map halfway between the lower left corner and its centre, and next to it is written, ‘You are here’. Sometimes it’s easier to go on living, not even knowing who you are, when at least you know precisely where you are while you go on not knowing.” Britt-Marie Was Here is the third novel by Swedish blogger, columnist and author, Fredrik Backman, and is flawlessly translated from Swedish by Henning Koch. Britt-Marie, now sixty-three, will be remembered as a pedantic, officious, overbearing secondary character from Backman’s second novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. She has had to face some unpleasant facts about her husband, Kent, and presents herself (for quite an unusual reason) at the unemployment office, seeking a job. Britt-Marie is sent to Borg, a remote town in the process of shutting down, where she is to act as temporary caretaker at the Recreation Centre. Britt-Marie arrives alone, but finds herself forced to interact with the (not-altogether-welcoming) townspeople, many of whom she is eventually proud to call friends. She finds herself somehow appointed trainer/coach of a group of muddy children who play football in the car park, including a sassy girl and her entrepreneurial younger brother, a boy who admires Britt-Marie’s hairdo, another who can almost kick goals and a young Somalian. Somebody who “…has one of the worst hairstyles Britt-Marie has ever laid eyes on, as if she’s combed her hair with a terrified animal”, runs the Borg Pizzeria which also serves as a Post office, grocery store, off-licence, car repair and health centre; cranky Karl visits to collect parcels; a pair of grumpy, bearded men spend days there drinking coffee; Sven, the multi-talented (by virtue of courses completed) cop keeps an eye on things; Bank, of generous body and impaired vision, apparently has a room available; Fredrik turns up regularly (with son Max) to flaunt his big BMW; and a certain Snickers-loving rodent also plays a role. Britt-Marie has firm beliefs on many topics: how the cutlery drawer should be arranged; why dead bodies start to smell; writing lists in pencil; keeping appointments; the importance of a quality window cleaner; the power of bicarbonate of soda; and the correct time for dinner (6pm sharp!). She may be faced with uncooperative bureaucrats, football-obsessed children and rude townspeople, but Britt-Marie is a force to be reckoned with. And “She may not know a lot about football, but even the gods know that no one is more skilled at lists than Britt-Marie”. Backman once again combines an abundance humour with heartache and plenty of words of wisdom as he touches on a variety of topics: loneliness, loyalty, the need to feel useful, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the superstitions of football fans, infidelity, guilt, grief, pride, insecurity, and community spirit. His quirky characters and the charming logic of the children make this moving and uplifting novel a delight to read, and fans of his earlier books will not be disappointed.
Fredrik Backman's first book, A Man Called Ove, remains on my list of all time favourite reads. But Ove has been bumped down a spot by Britt-Marie. Britt-Marie Was Here is Backman's forthcoming (May 2016 in the US and August 2016 in Canada) novel. I'm giving you lots of warning - this is one you absolutely have to read. Britt-Marie's marriage has broken up. After forty years of looking after Kent, she's alone and needs to find a job. Not an easy task, given her age and well - her personality and mannerisms. Britt-Marie is a bit awkward and uncomfortable in social situations and conversations. Britt-Marie's coping mechanisms are cleaning - (baking soda and Faxin - a brand of window cleaner, can do it all) as well as list making. "A year turned into several years, and several years turned into all the years. One morning you wake up with more life behind you than in front of you, not being able to understand how it's happened. Britt-Marie in fact does land a job - a three week stint in a run down little town named Borg, looking after their soon to be closed recreation centre. Borg is full of quirky inhabitants, odd little shops and a group of rag-tag children who love to play soccer - and I loved it all. (And you know, I kind of want to live there too.) But it is Britt-Marie who will steal (and break) your heart. Her stubbornness, her anxieties and her tentative steps in making a life for herself will by turns have you laughing and crying. Brilliant. Backman is a clever, clever writer - his soccer to life analogies are brilliant and the characters immediately won me over (or in the case of Kent - had me immediately despising him) "Kent always pushed 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 the feeling of going somewhere at the same time." It's simply impossible not to be in Britt-Marie's corner, urging her on and hoping that......well, I had my hopes for her (and Borg). Backman's ending, although not what I expected, is just right. All I can say is that you must read this book - and recommend it to your friends.
Britt-Marie is a cleaning freak, comes across as passive-aggressive, but she's not, it's just that people have difficulties in seeing things clearly, and she is stuck. She comes to Borg, a small community inhabited by people who stopped hoping and dreaming. Cleaning her way through Borg's little nooks and crannies, and while she's at it, cleaning her way through her mind, Britt-Marie (not, Britt, gosh!) sees that there is emotion within her, she does know what she wants, but sometimes it takes a bit too long to muster up the courage and strength to verbalize it, and live. Her husband preferred a younger woman over her, so Britt-Marie thought it only reasonable to find herself a job. Developing a rather quirky relationship with the girl at the employment agency, Britt-Marie ends up in Borg as a soccer coach. Britt-Marie hates soccer. But soccer is life for Borg, as she discovers. She meets a wide palette of characters that become endearing to both Britt-Marie and the reader. It the beginning, being told from the get-go that Britt-Marie is not passive-aggressive, you chuckle, then you get the feeling that, ahem, maybe she is a bit? Then you learn bits and pieces about her, and you stop judging and chucking and you understand her. You root for her, for the football team, and for the whole community. Britt-Marie was here is Fredrick Backman's third book, and it so good! I highly recommend it. It is the sort of book that has nice wording, a good choice of vocabulary, a book about hope and courage, with endearing characters that make you care about them. I received a free e-book version of this book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own. Maybe there would be more to say about this book, but do yourself a favor and read this book.
Solid effort from author Backman. While Britt-Marie is no Ove, he's one of my favorite characters of all time in fiction, so this book had an uphill battle from the outset. The approach is a bit formulaic, but sometimes it's nice to mostly know what's coming, and it's a good formula - a previously invisible member of society finds worth and self-realization, and we get to watch an isolated person find her community. There's humor, pathos, and a plot that moves along nicely. Mostly good things happen, but it's not overly saccharine, and I found the ending a bit ambiguous, sort of like life seems usually to turn out.
Nicely packaged, received very fast and now listening to it and enjoying it.
A delightful book. I would recommend you read My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry before you read Britt-Marie. It sets the stage for the book. Lovely is the only way to describe this book. I loved the ending.
An amazing book just like all of Backman's books. I could not stop reading it. It's so amazing how Backman can create one individual character who can touch the lives of so many other characters in the most unexpected way and improve their whole outlook on life . Just that one person can be the spark that gives a town and its residents down on their luck the hope that yes things will get better. The humanity that lies within us all can form new lasting and loving relationships. A very beautiful story.
After reading "A man called Ove", this was a disappointment. Ending wasn't well written at all... left you hanging.
I loved this book.
I’m not going to give you a synopsis of the book- others have done that. I’ll just tell you this is a book that will have you laughing, crying and so happy you read it. Don’t be put off by Britt-Marie at the beginning. You will be cheering her on by the end. I don’t often review books, but this one is so good and stays with you, that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recommend it. My favorite book of the summer… so far.
I didn't think I'd enjoy a book more than "A Man Called Ove." But I did. Britt-Marie is Here is a winner. It's witty, insightful, fun, and just a very very good read. I was sorry to see this story end, and hope the author features this character -- and others so expertly portrayed -- in future novels. This, in my opinion, is a must read. Don't walk to your local bookstore to get it. Run.
The idea that lists in ink are meant to be heeded is a great analogy for the character of Britt Marie. She's very organized, loves to clean, but a bit awkward with people. When she uncharacteristically leaves her husband, she soon shows up at the unemployment office, looking for work. Enter one of the interesting, unnamed characters, Girl, who finally gives in and finds Britt Marie a job as a supervisor of a rec center in a small town called Borg. The rec center is in a shambles, and the town a shell of itself after the recent economic crisis. But, Somebody still runs a grocery/pizzeria and kids still play soccer on what they call a pitch lit by headlights of parked cars. Here, Britt Marie's foray in the messiness of life and the wonderful characters Backman has created kept me reading long past bed or break time. The end was hard, but I loved it.
The character Britt-Marie, last seen in Backman's second book, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, has left her cheating husband and accepted a short-term job at a recreational center in Borg, a dead-end town pretty much decimated by the recent economic downturn. While coaching the youth soccer team and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, she meets a cast of remarkable characters, all a little damaged by life as she has been--including a policeman who believes more in justice than the law. There she faces some hard questions: You are here--now what do you want to do? How should you live your life? Are you the kind who takes a chance or the kind who plays it safe? Perhaps now, at sixty-three, Britt-Marie can finally make a choice in her life that is just for her own sake. Once again, Fredrik Backman has written a warm, touchingly-funny novel filled with eccentric characters. In this story the author returns a bit to his original modus operandi in A Man Called Ove, in which the main character is socially inept but with a big heart, and through her actions, changes everyone's lives. Britt Marie WAS HERE!
Britt-Marie wants to be seen. She has been a dutiful housewife for years; everything was always kept perfect. The house was always clean, the clothes perfect, the food on-time. Her husband on the other hand, not so perfect she has learned. Britt-Marie sets out on her own. She takes a job and moves to Borg. Within this tiny community, Britt-Marie finds friendship, love (?), kindness, acceptance, and just maybe herself. We all want to be "seen." We all want to be noticed/accepted for who we are. And, there is no age limit for this want. Britt-Marie is no different. The way she gets to that point is sometimes difficult to read, but heartwarming and endearing. Her story is a must read!!!
I absolutely loved the character of Britt-Marie. She is 63 years old and has recently left her husband. She finally admitted that he had been having affairs, he did not appreciate her or everything she did for him in taking care of and raising his children as well as taking care of him and his home. She leaves the house, but now she needs to find a job. After being out of the workforce for over 40 years, this is easier said than done. With all her quirks (making lists that she must stick to, being brutally honest and saying what she thinks, cleaning everything, never laughing etc.) she heads off to the employment office and demands they find her a job. After badgering the young counsellor, she finally gets a short-term (3 months) position as the caretaker at a recreation centre in a small, almost abandoned town called Borg. It is really just buildings on both sides of a road, but she heads off. This job and the life she finds in Borg, changes her and her life. Britt-Marie arrives in the town, her car explodes, at least that is what she thinks happens. It turns out that it has been hit by a soccer ball that does quite a bit of damage to her door. As it turns out, Britt-Marie hates soccer because it is the one thing that Kent sits and watches while she bustles around taking care of the house and he ignores her. Britt-Marie meets a group of children who play soccer religiously outside the recreation center and they somehow convince her to coach their team so they can enter a soccer tournament. The characters she meets in this little town make you laugh and cry. Somebody, the owner of the pizzaria, Vega and Omar, siblings who play soccer, Sven the police officer, Bank her landlord and many others show Britt-Marie she is a person who is worth caring about, has a sense of humor and is a good friend. She even gets a pet that she takes care of and feeds every day at exactly 6:00 because that is when civilized people eat dinner. Britt-Marie's growth in this book is amazing. She and the people in Borg learn and teach one another what is important in life, such as loyalty, friendship, love, family and home. There persistence and stubbornness help them remain a community even when it seems that there is nothing left for them. Fredrik Backman is becoming one of my favourite authors. I recommend this book to anyone who loves quirky characters, a good story, drama, family stories and stories about not giving up on yourself or others. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.