Britt-Marie Was Here: Book summary and reviews of Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was Here

by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman X
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
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  • Published in USA  May 2016
    384 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

The bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry returns with an irresistible novel about finding love and second chances in the most unlikely of places.

Britt-Marie can't stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She begins her day at 6 a.m., because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It's just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. She is not one to judge others - no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be.

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 is more than a little unprepared. Employed as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center, the fastidious Britt-Marie has to cope with muddy floors, unruly children, and a (literal) rat for a roommate. She finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts - and a handsome local policeman whose romantic attentions to Britt-Marie are as unmistakable as they are unwanted. 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 big-hearted misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?

Funny and moving, observant and humane, Britt-Marie Was Here celebrates the unexpected friendships that change us forever, and the power of even the gentlest of spirits to make the world a better place.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Every bit as churlish but lovable as Backman's cantankerous protagonist in his debut, A Man Called Ove, precocious Elsa will easily work her way into the hearts of readers who like characters with spunk to spare. A delectable homage to the power of stories to comfort and heal, Backman's tender tale of the touching relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter is a tribute to the everlasting bonds of deep family ties." - Booklist

"Backman has always played fast and loose with internal logic; without the smart pacing displayed in his previous books, the problem is more glaring here. Fans of Backman's style or of the metaphoric powers of football will enjoy what this novel has to offer, but it needed to simmer longer." - Kirkus

"Insightful and touching, this is a sweet and inspiring story about truth and transformation. Fans of Backman's will find another winner in these pages." - Publishers Weekly

This information about Britt-Marie Was Here shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

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Don't walk to your local bookstore to get it. Run!
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

Davida Chazan

Baking Soda and Soccer
Every so often, a writer comes along who can write a story with characters that touch you to your very core. Fredrik Backman is one of those writers - he did it with his first novel A Man Called Ove, repeated this with his second novel My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologizes, and he's done it again with Britt-Marie Was Here. Backman finds his way into your heart by giving us an ordinary, sometimes an annoying person, who has something very special, deep inside them that they don't know exists. Britt-Marie is one of these people. In his latest novel, Backman slowly peels away at all the things Britt-Marie has built around her to hide behind, in order to find something precious.

The story begins with Britt-Marie having left her husband Kent at the hospital after he had a heart attack while he was with his mistress. Through sheer tenacity, and infuriating persistence, Britt-Marie gets a temporary job as the caretaker of the recreation center in Borg. The problem is that the tiny village of Borg is practically a ghost town, but its remaining residents are no less tenacious and no less than infuriatingly persistent than Britt-Marie. Furthermore, neither Britt-Marie nor Borg intends to change who they are, in any way, shape, or form, except… neither could they imagine the outcome of this unstoppable force meeting that immovable object.
Fans of Backman's work will of course recognize Britt-Marie as being one of the characters he developed for his last novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologizes. I have the feeling that Backman probably fell in love with Britt-Marie's irascible character, possibly because she reminded him of his first protagonist, Ove. However, to tell the truth, it really doesn't matter if that was his reason for writing this novel, we can only thank the literary gods above that he wrote it, because as amazing as his first two novels were, this one is even better.

Usually this is where I tell you what it was that made me fall in love with this book; I would probably take this space to talk about character development, aspects of the protagonist, writing style, plot development and more. However, in this instance, I can't, because I fear that I'd end up reiterating everything I have already said about Backman's previous two novels. Furthermore, I'd probably end up effusing so much praise with hyperbole of admiration that you'd get bored. Instead, let me tell you that if you haven't read any of Backman's novels, you really should, and it doesn't matter which of the three you start with - although I would recommend that you should read this book after you've read My Grandmother. Mind you, that doesn't mean that this book isn't stand-alone, but I think readers will appreciate this book more if they read about Britt-Marie first as secondary character first.

Finally, of course there is no reason for me to defend my rating of a full five out of five stars for this novel. Backman has done it again, and it looks like this book will rank high on my list of my five favorite books of the year - for a third year in a row! Read this book, read Backman, you'll never regret it - and that's something Britt-Marie can certainly appreciate.

Cloggie Downunder

a delight to read
“’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.

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Author Information

Fredrik Backman Author Biography

Photo: Henric Lindsten

Fredrik Backman is a Swedish author, blogger and columnist. He is the author of a work of nonfiction, Things My Son Needs to Know About Life, and a number of novels including A Man Called Ove, his first novel. Ove has sold more than 2.8 million copies worldwide, making it one of Sweden's most popular literary exports since Stieg Larsson's thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - not bad for a book that was initially ignored or rejected by publishers including one memorable response that reads, "we like your novel, we think your writing has potential, but we see no commercial potential."

Link to Fredrik Backman's Website

Name Pronunciation
Fredrik Backman: Fred-rick Bock-men

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