Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).
I haven’t read Fredrik Backman’s book A Man Called Ove (yet) so I had no preconceptions when I started reading My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. Sometimes that’s a good way to go – I’ve heard a lot of people say they are not sure whether to read Go Set A Watchman, the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, because early reviews have suggested their views may be challenged. Here’s the blurb:
Heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure, the new novel by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon A Man Called Ove will charm and delight anyone who has ever had a grandmother. 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 …
One of those books that manages to be funny and sad at the same time, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises reminded me of Brooke Davis’ Lost & Found. Both are from a young child’s perspective, so the narrative is coloured with a combination of child-like innocence and precociousness that’s endearing and enchanting. Both include a cast of quirky characters: in this case, the characters’ foibles, as seen from Elsa’s perspective, are enhanced by their part in a great fairytale world her grandmother has created for her. And both are pure reading delight.
Underlying the eccentricity of Granny and the precocious opinions of Elsa, which made me laugh over and over, are insightful messages (served with a just-the-way-it-is smile) such as ‘the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit’ (p305) and ‘She knows everything has to become darker and more horrible before everything works out just fine at the end. Because that is how all the best stories go’ (p247).
Backman fuses creativity with the every day, character flaws with the fantastic, and wonder with wisdom. The result is of bittersweet charm … and a book that, for me, is a keeper.
Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99AU). My copy was courtesy of Hachette Australia.