Summary and book reviews of It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson

It's Fine By Me

By Per Petterson

It's Fine By Me
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    208 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2013,
    208 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

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Book Summary

Fans of Per Petterson's other books in English will be delighted by this opportunity to observe Arvid Jansen in his youth from a fresh perspective. In It's Fine By Me, Arvid befriends a boy named Audun. On Audun's first day of school he refuses to talk or take off his sunglasses; there are stories he would prefer to keep to himself. Audun lives with his mother in a working-class district of Oslo. He delivers newspapers and talks for hours about Jack London and Ernest Hemingway with Arvid. But he's not sure that school is the right path for him and feels that life holds other possibilities.

Sometimes tender, sometimes brutal, It's Fine By Me is a brilliant novel from the acclaimed author of Out Stealing Horses and I Curse the River of Time.

1

I was thirteen years old and about to start the seventh class at Veitvet School. My mother said she would go with me on the first day – we were new to the area, and anyway she had no job – but I didn't want her to. It was the 18th of August, the sky was all grey, and as I opened the school gate and went into the playground, it started to rain. I pushed my sunglasses up my nose and walked slowly across the open expanse. It was deserted. Midway, I stopped and looked around. To the right there were two red prefabs, and straight ahead lay the squat, blue main building. And there was a flagpole with a wet, heavy flag clinging to the halyard. Through the windows I could see faces, and those sitting on the inside pressed their noses against the panes and watched me standing in the rain. It was bucketing down. It was my first day, and I was late.

By the time I reached the entrance, my hair was streaming and my shirt was soaking wet. I took it off and wrung ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Early on in the novel, Audun explains that he wears sunglasses because bright light makes him sick. How did this affect your reading of what followed? Why do you think Petterson opens his book by immediately calling into question his narrator's reliability?
  2. While hiding behind his sunglasses and avoiding close emotional connection with others, Audun still seems to care deeply about being trendy—dressing in the latest fashions, listening to the coolest bands. Do you think this paradox rings true of adolescence? What about in adulthood? Ultimately what do you think drives Audun more: his desire to fit in, or to be apart?
  3. Discuss Petterson's use of the forest as a metaphor. To Audun it's often a refuge, especially when he is young and...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

In his novel It’s Fine by Me, Per Petterson uses the shared-yet-unique loneliness [all humans experience] as the foundation for characters who are so vulnerable, so real, so beautifully complex, you ache for them.   (Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).

Full Review Members Only (1248 words).

Media Reviews
Publisher's Weekly

Petterson's achievement in this work lies in conveying the passionate alienation of a young man caught between a childish need for protection and a powerful desire to protect.

Library Journal

With biting humor and sharp, Hemingway-like prose, this bildungsroman offers more light and hope than later Petterson novels, perhaps reflecting the author's younger, more idealistic self. Perfect for YA crossover or an intergenerational book discussion.

Kirkus Reviews

We have met Audun before, in different settings; he's the alienated young Westerner, and Petterson hasn't done enough to individuate him.

The Guardian (UK)

It's Fine By Me ... convey[s] those ordinary experiences close to Petterson's heart: the pleasure, for example, in the midst of domestic strife, of slowly and very carefully rolling a good cigarette, brewing the perfect coffee and settling down on the sofa with a fine book, like this one.

The Scotsman

It's Fine By Me is many things - an engaging coming-of-age tale, a writer's halting journey and a story of family drama and the inevitable stages of grief. With Audun Sletten Petterson has created a hero with gutsy resilience and a nose for the truth of things. You'd like to meet him on a street in your own home town.

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Arvid Jansen: A Familiar Face

In It's Fine By Me, on his first day at Veitvet School in 1965, 13-year-old Audun Sletten meets Arvid Jansen – a young man who would become his best, and one of his only, friends. "A few girls were skipping rope, and coming straight towards me was a boy on crutches… I glanced left and right, but there was no one else by the fence. He had dark, curly hair and boots like mine, with KINKS written on the one and HOLLIES on the other… I had decided not to make friends with anyone at this school, but this bloke was hard to refuse."

Though he plays a secondary role to Audun in It's Fine By Me, Arvid Jansen will be familiar to Per Petterson fans; he has starred in four of the author's other works, each of which describes the ...

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