One of the downsides of blogging is that you get so many books and requests that, on occasion, one of your favourite authors become neglected. It’s been far too long since I read Fredrik Backman so when Anxious People appeared on Netgalley I broke my self-imposed ban and requested it. I was thrilled when my request was granted.
One of the very first reviews I ever posted on Linda’s Book Bag was of Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises in a post you can see here. I reviewed A Man Called Ove here and Britt-Marie Was Here, here! The blog has evolved considerably since then, but I have never forgotten the excitement I felt when I was asked to meet and interview Fredrik Backman in June 2015. I have met hundreds of authors since but that meeting was very special. You can read about it here.
Published by Penguin imprint Michael Joseph on 20th August 2020, Anxious People is available for puchase through the links here.
In a small town in Sweden it appears to be an ordinary day. But look more closely, and you’ll see a mysterious masked figure approaching a bank…
Two hours later, chaos has descended. A bungled attempted robbery has developed into a hostage situation – and the offender is refusing to communicate their demands to the police.
Within the building, fear quickly turns to irritation for the seven strangers trapped inside. If this is to be their last day on earth, shouldn’t it be a bit more dramatic?
But as the minutes tick by, they begin to suspect that the criminal mastermind holding them hostage might be more in need of rescuing than they are…
My Review of Anxious People
Robbing a bank isn’t as easy as the robber thinks!
Despite the suggestion in the title, Anxious People is utterly glorious, uplifting and such a touching read. I laughed aloud on far too many occasions to count and I cried too so that Fredrick Backman has created the perfect blend of compassion and humour for me.
In a sense, Fredrik Backman exploits the classical three unities of time – a few hours, place – an apartment, and action – a hostage situation, and he does so with such clever and witty writing. That said, the backstories of each of the characters and the peripheral places of the psychologist’s office and the police station all blend into sheer perfection so that I finished reading Anxious People feeling that I had been given a glimpse into the very souls and innermost thoughts of every single person in the story.
It’s so hard to say too much about the plot of Anxious People because it would spoil the discoveries for the reader, but I can say it’s about a bridge, a bank robbery, a hostage situation and some police interviews! It can be read for sheer entertainment alone. It is cleverly structured so that several seemingly disparate elements are actually totally fundamental to the story. The direct appeal to the reader draws them in until they are as much part of the story as the robber, the hostages and the police. More than that, however, Anxious People is predicated on Fredrik Backman’s total understanding of human nature and complete compassion for even the least likeable people because he understands why we are as we are. Indeed, it is those who appear to deserve our sympathy least who earn it more through the skilled writing so that the experience of reading this narrative leaves the reader changed for the better too. The robber is such a brilliant character. Misguided, hopeless as a hostage taker and totally believable. I was as duped by the robber as are the police.
Speaking of the police, Jim and Jack are simply fabulous. Their relationship, and the presence of their lost loved ones, serve to show the reader how we all have our frailties, our dreams and our loyalties. Fredrik Backman somehow seems to know innately, and be able to convey so effortlessly, just what humanity is at its most fundamental level. I found reading Anxious People renewed my faith in my fellow man – or woman.
I’m aware how little I’ve actually said about Anxious People in this review. It’s impossible to define Fredrik Backman’s magical ability to make his readers know and understand not just the Julias et al in the story, but to come to know themselves better too. I adored Anxious People. It left me feeling I belong in the world at a time when I’ve been feeling detached from it. What could be better than that?
About Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman is the Number One New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove – now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks. His subsequent fiction includes My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown and Us Against You. Beartown is being adapted for HBO by the team behind The Bridge. He is also the author of two novellas: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. Fredrik Backman’s books are published in more than forty countries and have sold over 10 million copies. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.