- Title: Britt-Marie was Here
- Author: by Fredrik Backman
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
- Words to describe: Quirky, curmudgeony, amusing
- Publication Date: May 2016
- Publisher: Atria Books
- Rating: 3/5 stars
Britt-Marie is the latest literary curmudgeon, following after Ove and Eleanor Oliphant.
I can’t say Britt-Marie is my favorite curmudgeon so far, but she’s one of the most polite, in a condescending way. She’s OCD – constantly cleaning with her “bicarbonate of soda,” but I think she cleans because she is bored and lonely and wants to feel like she’s made an impression on her environment.
Britt-Marie has a dark background, with a sister who died young, a neglectful mother, and a distant father. Britt-Marie is the cliche insecure, in the shadow of her husband wife, who lives her life until the age of 63 under the commands and rule of others, namely, her husband. He’s rude, condescending, and unsupportive of her, and his sons (Britt-Marie’s stepsons) are no better.
But after something happens in their marriage, Britt-Marie awakens to the fact that she is 63, never held a proper job except a waitressing one decades ago, and hasn’t ever lived her life. She finds a job as a recreational building caretaker in an old town, Borg, that everybody has all but forgotten.
There, Britt-Marie finds herself being pulled into becoming a soccer coach for the teenagers in Borg, and though she does so because she thinks the teens should be able to play soccer, she finds herself in love, in a way, in the town, the people, and the lives people lead.
For the first time in her life, Britt-Marie makes friends of sorts, does what she wants, and remains true to herself. She doesn’t make a 180 in her character, but she makes baby steps into coming into her own.
I did think Britt-Marie would grow more as a character, but if she did, I’m not sure it would be realistic. So though I wanted her to do and become more, she did exactly what she was able to do, at her age, in her circumstances.
And for the first time in her life, she stands up for herself in the face of her husband, and for that I was proud of her. She may not have carved an entirely new road for herself, but she did walk a new path all of her own. What I love is she recognized her loneliness, and she took charge of reversing it.
The book was a slow build-up, and though I understand why that was so, I did wish it sped up a bit, and had more scenes and flavors. The minor violence was also unexpected, though it fit in with the town of Borg, with its poorer residents and lack of economic stimulation. And in this scene, Britt-Marie shows her color: she stands up for those she cares about, for her, and defies the violence that is waving its gun in her face.
Favorite quotes from Britt-Marie was here:
“One morning you wake up with more life behind you than in front of you, not being able to understand how it’s happened.”
“A human being may not choose her circumstances, but she does choose her actions.”
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