Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie Was Here

A Novel

Book - 2016
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Britt-Marie is a socially awkward, fussy busybody who is used to being organized. When she walks out on her cheating husband and gets a job as caretaker of the dilapidated recreation center in Borg, she is woefully unprepared for the changes. But as she takes on the task of leading the supremely untalented children's soccer team to victory, she just might find a place she belongs.
Publisher: New York : Atria Books, Washington Square Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781501142536
1501142534
9781501142543
1501142542
Characteristics: 324 pages ; 24 cm
Call Number: BACKMAN, F

Opinion

From Library Staff

List - New Beginnings
DCLadults Aug 26, 2020

Britt-Marie boldy walks out on her cheating husband and into a life of rediscovery.

List - Grumpy Pants
DCLadults Jan 18, 2017

Britt-Marie is socially awkward, fussy, recently single, and just coming to life in her 60s.


From the critics


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AndreaG_KCMO Oct 15, 2020

This story was an absolute treat, and the writing exactly as I like: direct, clean and sporting a wry sense of humor. I am left wishing I could hear more from this merry assemblage of Borg misfits and their hygienic visitor.

c
Contralawyer
Oct 11, 2020

Having loved Ove I had to meet Britt-Marie and I was not disappointed. But along the way I met Somebody and Bank and Sammy and Sven and Vega and Omar and Ben(and even Kent). And I realized that each of these carefully drawn characters was as important to the story as Britt-Marie herself. Clutching her purse, her flaxen and her bicarbonate of soda, Britt-Marie will make you love her (like I do) whether she jumps or not.

t
trjenkins
Oct 10, 2020

Ok.

j
jfd5
Sep 07, 2020

Oh Britt-Marie, where does one even begin. A lovely story with a full range of emotions for the reader. Cheering for everyone...except maybe Kent! Lol. You won't be disappointed

c
Chris_516
Jul 23, 2020

Backman is always fun to read with clever endings. He really bring Britt-Marie to life, her thoughts on herself and life. So laugh out loud moments for sure! May the ending surprise you too!

m
maipenrai
May 19, 2020

Really enjoyed this book - felt like " A Man Called Ove" for a woman. Recommend!! Kristi & Abby Tabby

b
betsymarzoni
Apr 16, 2020

Backman introduces us to a fascinating character who ends up in a dying town with a group of soccer loving kids. After a lifetime of conceding to others' needs, she finds herself, her bravery, and her capacity for deep love. I liked this even more than A Man Called Ove!

l
lisser
Mar 09, 2020

After reading, "My Grandmother told me to tell you she's sorry", I needed to follow up on Britt-Marie. If you have not read the above book by Backman, then this book will not make as much sense. Was a nice continuation of her story.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

Loved the book "A Man Called Ove" and its film adaptation. Saw the film based on this book and good enough to want to read the source material. This novel is about the challenges and hope of the people living in a dusty small town called Borg through the critical eyes of a socially inept 63 years old woman from the city. Not as good as the outstanding Ove story but a worthwhile read. BTW, for those with no knowledge of soccer or other small town matters, neither does our guide Britt-Marie.

Note: The film is lighter than the book in mho, but both include this excellent pick-up line -- “I want you to know, Britt-Marie, that every time there’s a knock on my front door, I hope it’s you.”

i
InsJavert
Oct 26, 2019

Ever since I read "A Man Called One", I have been struck by the writing of Fredrick Backman and have enjoyed immensely all his stories.

If you read the reviews and comments provided by other Goodread readers, I am almost certain you will find a common thread, Fredrick Backman has a gift, a wonderful talent in being able to develop characters and stories about social ills and ways, we don't want to discuss, admit, or talk about. Yet, he style and compassion add a heart and a perspective to writing about these sensitive subjects, and draws the reader to see them in a different light, in a way which we are not accustomed and to understand them. To take the grim and repulsion off of them, not so much to make them pleasant. No, only to look at them in a different way, to see them from the eyes, feelings, and ways of the one who society has ignored, repulsed, or judged.

The characters are endearing misfits of society. Those we just do not want to get to know, give the time of day, or anything else from our full and busy lives. But these characters you come to care about, care about deeply.

Britt-Marie is another one of those characters. She is socially awkward (which is being gracious). She is compulsive and expects everyone else to be accepting of her because she always does everything properly, accordingly, and perfectly. She is OCD, she cleans everything in site, and accepts very little or gives understanding to anything outside of her personal realm. But when thrust into a situation because of life's circumstances, she finds herself in a world that is so foreign to her, she has to come to terms with it and herself and so the journey begins. It is through this story that once again, Mr. Backman weaves his style, wit, and perspective into a believable and thoroughly delightful tale.

When the story is done, you once again find yourself deeply touched and wondering. Touched by the story, wondering about life.

I have not been disappointed yet by any of his stories and HIGHLY recommend them to everyone, with the guarantee you will not at all be disappointed and in all likelyhood find yourself want to read his other books.

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Quotes

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j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

Forks. Knives. Spoons. In that order. Britt-Marie is certainly not the kind of person who judges other people. Far from it. But surely no civilized person would even think of arranging a cutlery drawer in a different way from how cutlery drawers are supposed to be arranged?
===
In normal life you clean up the kitchen and keep your balcony tidy and take care of your children. It’s hard work—harder than one might think. In normal life you certainly don’t find yourself sitting in the unemployment office.
===
“Okay . . . what did you say your name was? Britt, right?” “Britt-Marie. Only my sister calls me Britt.”
===
Kent makes very good coffee. Everyone says so. Britt-Marie takes care of the coasters and Kent takes care of the coffee.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

Some people don’t understand the value of lists, but Britt-Marie is not one of those people. She has so many lists that she has to keep a separate list to list all the lists. Otherwise anything could happen. She could die. Or forget to buy baking soda.
===
Kent says she exaggerates, but people do actually drop dead all the time when they’re away, and what would the landlord think if they had to break down the door only to find an unclean mattress? Surely they’d conclude that Kent and Britt-Marie lived in their own dirt?
===
“My latest employment was as a waitress. I had outstanding references.”

The girl looks hopeful. “And when was that?”

“Nineteen seventy-eight.”

“Ah . . . and you haven’t worked since then?”

“I have worked every day since then. I’ve helped my husband with his company.”

Again the girl looks hopeful. “And what sorts of tasks did you perform in the company?”

“I took care of the children and saw to it that our home was presentable.”

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

Britt-Marie exhales with great patience. “She had no children and no husband and no job. No one knew she was there. If one has a job, people notice if one doesn’t show up.”
===
“Why didn’t you kick it?” she asks, perplexed.
“Why on earth would I want to kick it?”
===
The girl, still at work long after her day should be over, sits looking for a long, long time at the woman who’s kept her here. Britt-Marie sits with a straight back, like she sits on the chair on the balcony when she’s waiting for Kent. She never wanted to go to bed when Kent wasn’t home, because she didn’t want to go to sleep unless someone knew she was there.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

She’s considerate. After she heard Kent’s children saying she was passive-aggressive she was extra considerate for several weeks.
===
“I don’t use perfume, so I asked him to always put his shirt directly in the washing machine when he came home. He never did. Then he used to yell at me because the washing machine was so loud at night.”
===
“The other woman called me after he’d had his heart attack.”
===
I made a habit of reading to them. My favorite was The Master Tailor. It’s a fairy tale, you understand. The children wanted me to make up my own stories, but I can’t see the point of it when there are perfectly good ones already written by professionals. Kent said it was because I don’t have any imagination, but actually my imagination is excellent.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

People sometimes refer to darkness as something that falls, but in places like Borg it doesn’t just fall, it collapses. It engulfs the streets in an instant. In cities there are so many people who don’t want to sit at home all night that you can open dedicated premises and run entertainment industries that are open only at these times. But in Borg, life is encapsulated once darkness falls.
===

Britt-Marie exhales with great patience. “She had no children and no husband and no job. No one knew she was there. If one has a job, people notice if one doesn’t show up.” The girl, still at work long after her day should be over, sits looking for a long, long time at the woman who’s kept her here. Britt-Marie sits with a straight back, like she sits on the chair on the balcony when she’s waiting for Kent. She never wanted to go to bed when Kent wasn’t home, because she didn’t want to go to sleep unless someone knew she was there.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

The sun is already up when she wakes. She almost falls out of bed when she realizes. Waking up long after the late-rising January sun! What will people think? Still half asleep, she’s making her way to her clothes when she realizes why she’s woken up. Someone is knocking on the door. The whole thing is terribly vexatious, actually, waking up at an hour when people are actually quite entitled to knock on your door.
===
Britt-Marie has heard tell of this sort of thing on the natural history programs Kent used to watch when there was no soccer on the TV. Human beings are the only animals that smile as a gesture of peace, whereas other animals show their teeth as a threat. This is perfectly understandable now; she can see the animal inside the human being.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

She may not know a lot about soccer, but even the gods know that no one is more skilled at lists than Britt-Marie.
===
“I don’t eat foreign food,” says Britt-Marie, even though what she really means is, “Kent doesn’t eat foreign food.” Vega shrugs her shoulders again. “If you don’t eat the tortillas it’s like having salad.”
===
“Never bloody mind, then! We thought you had it in you to be decent about it. This is Borg, so it’s not like there are so many other bloody adults to choose from. You’re the only one.” Britt-Marie has nothing to say to that.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

She asks herself if choices or circumstances make us the sort of people we become—or what it was that made Sami the sort of person who steps in. She wonders what takes the most out of a person: to be the kind that jumps, or the kind that doesn’t? She wonders how much space a person has left in her soul to change herself, once she gets older. What people does she still have to meet, what will they see in her, and what will they make her see in herself?
===
“Of course I usually bring flowers when I’m invited for dinner, but there’s no florist in Borg. I’ve noticed you like cigarettes. I suppose cigarettes must be like flowers for someone who likes cigarettes,” she explains, as if to defend herself. Sami takes the carton of cigarettes. He looks almost emotional. Britt-Marie sits in a spare seat and clears her throat. “You’re not afraid of cancer, I suppose?” “There are worse things to be afraid of,” says Sami with a smile.

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

Death is powerlessness. Powerlessness is desperation. Desperate people choose desperate measures.
===
“It was a beautiful funeral,” says Sven, because that’s what you say. “Very beautiful,” says Britt-Marie, because you have to say that as well.
===
Every death is unjust. Everyone who mourns seeks someone to blame. Our fury is almost always met by the merciless insight that no one bears responsibility for death. But what if someone was responsible? And what if you knew who had snatched away the person you love? What would you do?
===
Finally a car door opens and Omar steps out. A man’s eyes in the body of a boy. Is this the end of a childhood?

j
jimg2000
Feb 06, 2020

Death is powerlessness. Powerlessness is desperation. Desperate people choose desperate measures.
===
“It was a beautiful funeral,” says Sven, because that’s what you say. “Very beautiful,” says Britt-Marie, because you have to say that as well.
===
Every death is unjust. Everyone who mourns seeks someone to blame. Our fury is almost always met by the merciless insight that no one bears responsibility for death. But what if someone was responsible? And what if you knew who had snatched away the person you love? What would you do?
===
Finally a car door opens and Omar steps out. A man’s eyes in the body of a boy. Is this the end of a childhood?

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Summary

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SPL_Robyn Nov 02, 2016

Have you ever wondered how much influence the mere presence of a person can have in a town? Or if a solitary, eccentricity-ridden woman of a certain age could ever change her story more than half-way through her life?
These are not questions Britt-Marie has ever asked herself, and she certainly would never describe herself as eccentric in any way – what would people think? She is preoccupied by how others might perceive her, yes. She has total faith in baking soda and Faxin to clean just about anything, and is a compulsive list-maker, yes. And cutlery drawers must be arranged in precisely the correct way, yes.
She also had complete trust in and reliance on her husband Kent for forty years. Now that she is alone, Britt-Marie has one quest: to make sure she does not die forgotten. And although her life story – of her mother, her sister, her husband and step-children – is revealed as slowly as air escaping a leaking tire, it is when Britt-Marie finds herself in a dying town called Borg that she really begins to live. It may seem like a meager life, being a caretaker in an old recreation centre, but the reticent residents of Borg and taciturn Britt-Marie are kindred spirits in an odd way, and where kinship blooms, so does hope. Oh, and football, too.
Backman uses football (soccer) as a metaphor for optimism the way Leafs fans would use hockey. But it is his depiction of Britt-Marie that is most admirable, and his readers are gently pulled from irritation with his unlikely heroine into a warm understanding of this woman who has no real understanding of herself. Britt-Marie lives inside her own head with her own peculiar motivations driving her, but Backman almost surreptitiously reveals how the town begins to open up to her, and how – most astonishing to her – Britt-Marie finds herself reciprocating their support.
For fans of Scandinavian literature akin to Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, or for fans of soccer, Fredrik Backman does not disappoint. Both quirky and tender and - Britt-Marie gets her wish – not easily forgotten.

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