Britt-Marie Was Here is the third novel by Fredrik Backman and a sort of sequel to his My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, which I read recently and really loved. Britt-Marie Was Here is another warm, quirky and humorous novel in Fredrik Backman’s unique style.
Britt-Marie was one of an ensemble of characters in My Grandmother – the ‘nag bag’ that nobody really liked. In Britt-Marie Was Here she leaves her old life behind to start again in the small village of Borg.
In Borg, Britt-Marie realises she has spent her life serving others and living in their shadow – her sister, her mother and her husband, Kent. Her role has always been ‘to make things nice’ and to keep things clean. But is that enough for her to survive in a new community? And does she want more from life than just cleaning?
The straight-laced older lady is as much of a shock to Borg as she is to them. She can’t believe that they are happy to live with dirty kitchens and disorganised cutlery drawers, but a cast of older ladies, teenagers and the local policemen see something special in Britt-Marie.
The children of Borg are fascinated by football. Britt-Marie knows nothing of football. She doesn’t understand what it means to play for the national team and has no inkling of what the World Cup is, but she sees it means something to her new friends.
Between bouts of cleaning, phone calls to the girl at the unemployment offices and dinner at 6pm every night, Britt-Marie soon becomes accepted in Borg. In the end, there could be no doubt that Britt-Marie was here.
This is a lovely book, which had me laughing and crying just as much as My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises and the brilliant A Man Called Ove. Fredrik Backman has an incredible ability to paint a picture with his characters, who all seem a little extreme, but at the same time totally believable. His books all portray a wonderful bond between misunderstood people, and between the older generation and children or young people.
It’s a tough call, but I possibly enjoyed Britt-Marie even more than My Grandmother. It is possible to enjoy Britt-Marie Was Here as a standalone novel, but there is some detail which is better understood by reading My Grandmother first.
This is another book which is a perfect lockdown read and would also be suitable for children from the age of about 12 or 13, even though it is a book written for adults.