The “fish-out-of-water” phenomenon makes for great stories. The sense of displacement, the panic, the struggle to cope–the reader can experience these from afar, within the safety of the pages. Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman uses this trope in an endearing fashion by dropping its protagonist in the fictional town of Borg.
Britt-Marie and Borg couldn’t be more different from each other. Britt-Marie likes things prim and proper– things in their place, a time for everything. In taking care of her husband and his children, she has let life pass her by, dreaming only of clean kitchens, balconies and a few words of appreciation.
Borg is a little nowhere town ravaged by the financial crisis. Even the people living on Borg seem to want to leave it. With only a pizzeria (which also functions as post office, grocery store and pretty much everything else) and a recreation centre (soon to be closed) to boast of, Borg is slowly ceasing to exist. A group of unruly kids who want to play soccer are the beating heart of Borg.
Britt-Marie as the coach of this soccer team seems like an unlikely marriage, but this is exactly the premise that this book runs with. Britt-Marie’s love for order and Borg’s love for soccer are pitted against each other. As Britt-Marie and Borg adjust to and understand each other, both grow in new and beautiful ways.
With a heartwarming cast of characters, Britt-Marie Was Here is the sort of book the reader feels at home in. From the spunky Vega to the irascible Bank, from Sami of the perfect cutlery drawer, to Sven who is always in his uniform, the reader is spoilt for choice when it comes to characters to fall in love with.
There are heaps of humour of course, as is expected from a book of this kind. It is not quite the “laugh out loud” sort of funny, but a more subtle sense of comedy that pervades this book. The emotional range however extends beyond that.One finds oneself cheering for the team, railing against unfairness, shaking with fear and crying with a broken heart. Britt-Marie will move you.
For those who are looking for a well-told story, Britt-Marie Was Here is the prefect read.
FTC disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.
Similar books that I have read: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.