Welcome to the last day of June, week nine of 2018!
Okay, fine, I’ve hugely failed this challenge. But, I’m not even fussed, I’m just going to blaze onward and see how many books I can finish this year. Spoiler: I probably won’t hit 52.
On with the review!
Fredrik Backman is a Swedish author who I’ve heard of before, but never found a translated copy of his work in a shop in England before. That’s certainly a fault of my own, because Backman is a bestseller in Swedish, English and a whole heap of other languages. Next on my list is his bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove.
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises, (referred to as My Grandmother from now on), opens with Elsa and her unconventional grandmother. Elsa is nearly eight, and is incredibly outcast in her quiet life. Elsa’s only friend is her rebellious grandmother who breaks into zoos and shoots paintballs at neighbours to distract Elsa from her bullies at school. Elsa’s parents are separated and have both started new families, leaving Elsa feeling understandably isolated from both her parents. Elsa, her mother, and her grandmother live in a tall building with a whole host of other characters.
HUGE SPOILER: Elsa’s grandmother dies within the first few chapters. The following story follows Elsa’s aching grief, anger, and curiosity. Elsa is left a treasure hunt to follow, meeting residents of their building along the way and unpicking her grandmother’s complex life as she goes.
I think, for me, the book was a beautiful series of character profiles shown through a young narrative. I was obsessed. However, it was slightly weird having some contemporary aspects sort of thrown in – Elsa loves Harry Potter and is always referencing the books, but kind of like an adult would think a nearly-eight-year-old would reference the books, y’know? – but I recognise my own bias. I’m not a huge fan of modern brands or trends being shoved into narrative for no reason. I think ultimately it dates the narrative because you’re separating future or past generations from the characters – the story loses its timeless nature which I think is a shame with fiction. I think Backman gets away with it, just, because Elsa is young and separated from other people her age.
An incredible element in My Grandmother is the mixture of reality and fiction. Elsa’s grandmother creates this incredible land which Elsa thinks was purely created as a safe space for her and her imagination. But there’s much, much, more to the secret language and the imaginary world that her grandmother has created.
The entire book just took my breath away in terms of the pure truth that Backman is casually laying out for us. This is my favourite quote in the book (quote of a quote):
I was so absorbed in this story that I forgot to take many pictures of the quotes I loved, so here’s a few linear versions for you.
“There’s something special about a grandmother’s house. You never forget how it smells.”
“Elsa decides that even if people she likes have been shits on earlier occasions, she has to learn to carry on liking them. You’d quickly run out of people if you had to disqualify all those who at some point have been shits.”
“… not all monsters look like monsters. There are some that carry their monstrosity inside.”
“Don’t fight with monsters, for you can become one. If you look into the abyss for long enough, the abyss looks into you.”
Let me know if any of you are fans of Fredrik Backman, I certainly am! Expect to see some more of his work on the blog in the near future. I don’t really apologise for the failure of this challenge, because it doesn’t really effect anyone else… I apologise to myself, but I know how mad the past few months have been so I’ll try and give myself a break.
More books coming soon!