Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises– Fredrik Backman

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I ‘read’ this book in audio format, chosen because I find my normal fayre of crime fiction bizarrely too hard to listen to, and decided a total change of scene might work better for me, I was right.
I’m not however quite sure how to review it but need to illustrate what an impact Elsa, and her Grandmother had on me as I trudged home from work over a number of weeks. Elsa starts by giving us a few pointers about her Grandmother:

“Granny and Elsa used to watch the evening news together. Now and then Elsa would ask Granny why grown-ups were always doing such idiotic things to each other. Granny usually answered that it was because grown-ups were generally people, and people are generally shits. Elsa countered that grown-ups were also responsible for a lot of good things in between all the idiocy – space exploration, the UN, vaccines and cheese slicers, for instance. Granny then said the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit. The hard part of life is keeping as much on the ‘not-a-shit’ side as one can.”

Granny is also a little bit mad. One of the early stories we hear is of her throwing turds at a policeman after breaking into a zoo, firing paintballs from her balcony at one of the most enduring characters of all Britt-Marie and driving a car called Audi, all with Elsa in tow of course. Granny and Elsa live in separate apartments in one building and although the main story is about this wonderful pair; Elsa a super bright child who is ‘different’ and Granny who we discover is similarly different and we have a whole host of other characters whose stories we discover along the way. Child characters always worry me a little and Elsa at ‘nearly eight’ is no different. Fortunately she was an engaging child, full of Marvel super-heros, Harry Potter and a stickler for using Wikipedia a useful device for knowing stuff that no normal nearly eight year old would know and of course as she is absolutely integral to the storyline it was helpful that she was ‘different’ a normal child could never have coped with the pressure!

This might sound like a bit of a ‘twee’ tale, and on a level it is. There is the magic of childhood with an overarching fairy tale world invented by Elsa’s Granny, Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. But Fredrik Backman has a way of making this absolutely story for adults. In a style seen again in his far darker tale, Beartown, there are insightful words that cover the range of every situation and emotion.

“Death’s greatest power is not that it can make people die, but that it can make people want to stop living.”

Because sadly, and especially because she is Elsa’s only friend, Granny dies and leaves Elsa with a number of letters to be delivered, all of which apologise to the recipient for something. It is while undertaking this task that the other resident’s stories are revealed. Some with happier outcomes, some less so and those stories also reveal more about Granny than all the stories and madcap activities she carried out in Elsa’s presence. As the book goes on it becomes clear who some of the characters in Miamas really are and in turn gives an explanation as to why they are the way they are. Along the way we see war, we see natural disasters in the form of a tsunami, we see bullying and betrayal and we also see that life goes on. Life and death are seen up close and personal through the prism of a those who have witnessed both.

This is a delightful story which was beautifully narrated by Joan Walker who manages to keep her voice steady as some of the more emotional moments and the combination of an unusual story, expertly translated by Herman Koch gave me much pleasure and company while I clocked up my steps!

“She shouldn’t take any notice of what those muppets think, says Granny. Because all the best people are different – look at superheroes.”

I couldn’t help feeling the world would be a much better place if every child had a ‘Granny’ in their corner to guide them.

First Published UK: 4 June 2015
Publisher:Sceptre
No of Pages: 353
Listening Time: 11 Hours 2 Minutes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (July 22)

Well another busy week full of sunshine and a family trip to see the local production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as my step-daughter and her boyfriend were visiting. We were all greatly impressed, the child-catcher being suitably scary!

This Week on the Blog

As I’m alternating the reads I experienced while on my holiday last month and newly published books, there week was a lull in the publishing world so I’m slowly catching up starting with a review of Dying Truth by the outstanding Angela Marsons

My excerpt post this week came from an upcoming read; Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne an author not afraid to dig a little deeper into the human psyche.

This Week in Books featured the authors Rachel Rhys, Paula Daly and Alison Light a pleasing mix of historical, psychological and non-fiction.

My second review of the week was for Raven Black by Ann Cleeves, an outstanding piece of crime fiction where the setting is almost a character in its own right.

Raven Black was only the fourth book I’ve reviewed for the 20 Books of Summer 2018 challenge and by now I should have completed the first 10. I wasn’t deterred by this apparent failing though and optimistically published my second set of 10 books on Friday.

I redeemed myself somewhat by posting my review of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, the fifth book for the challenge, yesterday. This is going into that very special list of favourite reads of all time!

 

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Death Knocks Twice by Richard Thorogood, a lighter look at murder on the Caribbean island of Saint-Marie where the influence of Agatha Christie looms large.

This old-fashioned story albeit in modern times, is characterised by a minimal number of suspects and a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve with plenty of red-herrings thrown into the mix. And then Death knocks again and another body is discovered in equally baffling circumstances! With no-one being quite what they seem and it quickly becoming clear that the coffee plantation, built up with the use of slaves, is not as prosperous as the family’s standing in the community might suggest DI Poole along with Camille, Fidel and Dwayne use age-old techniques to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Brilliant done with a lightness of touch that reflects the TV series this was a delightful read.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover.

Blurb

Two dead bodies. A family of suspects. One grumpy detective.

Reluctantly stationed on the sweltering Caribbean island of Saint-Marie, Detective Inspector Richard Poole dreams of cold winds, drizzly rain and a pint in his local pub.

Just as he is feeling as fed up as can be, a mysterious vagrant is found dead in the grounds of the historic Beaumont plantation. Immediately assumed to be suicide, DI Poole is not so convinced and determined to prove otherwise. Never mind that the only fingerprints on the murder weapon belong to the victim. Or that the room was locked from the inside.

Before long, death knocks twice and a second body turns up. The hunt is on to solve the case – despite the best efforts of the enigmatic Beaumont family… Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

While I was away on holiday a local author contacted me to see if I was interested in reading his book and finally due to other commitments we finally met up for a good chat one lunctime this week. I am now the proud owner of Anthony Le Moignan’s first published novel (although he has more up his sleeve), A Long Goodbye.

Blurb

Simon, a successful accountant, has a big problem. The biggest of them all. He checks himself into Orchard Care Home whilst still relatively healthy, the youngest resident by decades. He’s confident he cut all ties with the outside world and is untraceable.

Emma, married with no kids, lives, breathes and manages Orchard Care Home; a position her husband, Michael, used to hold in the good old days. But now he’s soared up the company hierarchy she sees so much less of him.

The attraction between carer and resident is instant, but ultimately destined for catastrophe. Alzheimer’s takes no prisoners and Early Onset, it’s most tragic form, is the cruellest of all.
How can Michael feel threatened by Simon? And what future could Emma have with him?
Simon understands less and less, but knows he has to try and run away from time – to somehow beat the ceaseless clock.

A powerful new novel by Anthony Le Moignan that will make you laugh and cry, for fans of Jojo Moyes, Emma Healey and Nicholas Sparks. Amazon

I have decided that hard-hitting crime fiction as an audio book is not for me… so I have chosen something gentler to accompany me on my walking; My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman seems to be working better for me…

Blurb

Everyone remembers the smell of their grandmother’s house.

Everyone remembers the stories their grandmother told them.

But does everyone remember their grandmother flirting with policemen? Driving illegally?
Breaking into a zoo in the middle of the night? Firing a paintball gun from a balcony in her dressing gown?

Seven-year-old Elsa does.

Some might call Elsa’s granny ‘eccentric’, or even ‘crazy’. Elsa calls her a superhero. And granny’s stories, of knights and princesses and dragons and castles, are her superpower. Because, as Elsa is starting to learn, heroes and villains don’t always exist in imaginary kingdoms; they could live just down the hallway.

As Christmas draws near, even the best superhero grandmothers may have one or two things they’d like to apologise for. And, in the process, Elsa can have some breath-taking adventures of her own . . . Amazon

tbr-watch

Finally I have broken the 2 book a week reading and managed to read 3 books this week and I have only added the 2 so the TBR is standing at 170!
Physical Books – 112
Kindle Books – 41
NetGalley Books –16
Audio Books –1

And with all three of this week’s reviews were for a books I own I’ve added another whole book token so now I’m 3 1/3 books in credit, having bought no new books.