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Book Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

If you ever feel as though the world is totally shit and there’s no hope for humans (and let’s be honest sometimes looking around you’d be forgiven for thinking that), pick up any of Fredrik Backman’s books and I can guarantee by the end of it, you’ll think very differently.

In 12 months, he’s cemented his place as my favourite author, his books are a joy to read. I can’t believe I didn’t discover his work until last December; still, it means I have plenty to work my way through, the latest being Anxious People.

It’s New Year’s Eve and House Tricks estate agents are hosting an open viewing in an up-market apartment when an incompetent bank robber rushes in and politely takes everyone hostage.

For Anna-Lena and Roger, busy buying-up apartments to fill the hole in their marriage, it’s something else to talk about.

For Julia and Ro, panicky parents-to-be, it’s yet another worry.

Lonely bank manager Zara only came here for the view.

While 87-year-old grandmother Estelle seems rather pleased by the company . . .

As the police gather outside, the anxious strangers huddled within try to make the best of a very sticky situation – but could it be that they have a whole lot more in common than meets the eye?

What a wonderful book this is! 

I could sit here writing superlatives for hours on end, but nothing will come close enough to summing up how this book made me feel and how much I enjoyed it.

And it took me by surprise because during those early chapters, I was confused by where this book was going and what certain chapters had to do with the main plot of the book. I wasn’t too sure if I was going to enjoy it. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What is clear is that this story, isn’t at all what it seems.

“This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots. So, it needs saying from the outset that it’s always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is.” 
― Fredrik Backman

This isn’t a story about a bank robber. It isn’t a story about a hostage drama. It isn’t a story about a bridge (if you’ve read it, you’ll understand that reference).

It is a story about people; gloriously messy people making their way through life and, at times, making a right pig’s ear of it.

Roger and Anna-Lena are both struggling with retirement and what it means for their marriage. Julia and Ro are anxiety riddled parents to be. Zara’s carrying guilt, Estelle is lonely, and the incompetent bank robber is desperate.

As these strangers spend hours together in an enclosed space, they share their anxieties with each other. They talk about life, love and the past. They start to help each other, after all they all have or have had the same worries.

Their relationships are complex and intricate, Backman lays out their personalities delicately on the page, slowly unveiling more about each of them.

It’s a tale that teaches us not to jump to conclusions, I certainly did. 

It’s about not making snap judgements about people, again something I was guilty of doing when I met each of these characters.

I thought I had them each worked out, knew how they ticked, knew who they were. I was surprised at every turn.

It’s beautiful. It’s a reminder to forgive ourselves because we are more than a sum of our past mistakes, we all have the capacity to be idiots, it is what being human is about.

“They say that a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.” 
― Fredrik Backman

I enjoyed the twists throughout anxious people.

There are moments that are sad, it will make you think about how the world is structured and the difference between the haves and have nots, but it is laced with laugh out loud moments and warmth. It is a thought provoking, universal story about people and love because, yes, while we all have the capacity to be idiots, we also all have the capacity to compassion and empathy and this book does that.

Anxious People is a story that will stay with me forever. It is a perfect study in humanity because after all, we’re all anxious people.

“We don’t have a plan, we just do our best to get through the day, because there’ll be another one coming along tomorrow.” 
― Fredrik Backman

Have you read Anxious People or any of Fredrik Backman’s books? I’d love to hear what you think of them.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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