Britt-Marie is 63 years old and she has always felt invisible. The only people who ever appreciated her enough to ‘see‘ her were her sister Ingrid (long since dead) and her husband Kent (for a short while after they were first married). She has no friends. She likes to clean and is more than a bit OCD when it comes to having everything in its proper place. Oh… and she LOVES balconies, purple tulips, and crosswords!
Readers first met Britt-Marie in Fredrik Backman’s last novel “My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry”. She didn’t play a huge part in the book – she was the irascible and interfering neighbor who complained about the Wurse. You do not have to read the other novel first as this one stands alone quite well.
Britt-Marie’s husband no longer sees her, but unfortunately he does see someone else, someone younger and prettier than Britt-Marie. When his infidelity can no longer be ignored – and after decades of being belittled and patronized, Britt-Marie leaves him after over forty years of marriage. She seeks employment and, for the first time in her life, she gets a job. With the help of a disbelieving clerk at the job center, she finds one (of sorts) in a tiny, dying hamlet called Borg. When she arrives at her destination the first thing that happens is that she gets hit in the head with a soccer ball. It would seem the place is besotted with soccer! For soccer is all they have left…
Her identity has been eclipsed by her husband for so long that she doesn’t know who she is anymore. Her self-esteem is non-existent. Britt-Marie is eccentric, inflexible, quirky, and all too human – but above all she is VERY lonely. She doesn’t know what it is like to NOT be lonely. She is SO lonely that she befriends a rat!
The adolescents of Borg are without direction, hope, or, it would seem, any adult guidance. They ask her if she will act as their soccer coach. Britt-Marie is astounded as she knows nothing about this game she views as ludicrous. As the children become more and more a part of Britt-Marie’s life, she begins to blossom…
Sometimes Britt-Marie longs for her ‘old’ life. When Kent comes to Borg to bring her back home, Britt-Marie wonders if it is worth being lonely and invisible just to have the comfort and stability of the familiar.
Poignant and hysterically funny in equal measure, like “A man called Ove” his latest novel “Britt-Marie was here” is a heartwarming novel of life, loss, and our intrinsic need to be needed. The dust-jacket is absolutely perfect for the book!
The reason I love ALL of Fredrik Backman’s novels is the language. All similar in style with short clipped sentences, sparse in words yet packed with emotion. Anyone who hasn’t yet read one of his books should do so. May I recommend “A man called Ove” to begin…
There is a reading group guide for “Britt-Marie was here” provided by the publisher.
“Britt-Marie was here” is a
May 2016 Indie Next selection
May 2016 LibraryReads selection
Fredrik Backman, a blogger and columnist, is the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and are being published around the world in more than twenty-five languages. His latest novel is Britt-Marie Was Here. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife and two children.