Anxious People has all of the things I love about a Fredrik Backman book. Wonderful writing, memorable characters and a lot of emotion and depth. However I have to confess to being a little disappointed by it. It may just have been poor timing on my part but there was something that didn’t quite work for me. I still enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.
A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.
Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book. I didn’t dislike it either but as a huge fan of Backman it was definitely disappointing.
It may have been a case of wrong book at the wrong time (it probably wasn’t the brightest idea to read a book titled “Anxious People” at the height of a global pandemic) but many of the things I usually love in Backman’s writing I seemed to find a little bit irritating. There’s a lot of foreshadowing and the narrator talking directly to the reader, telling us what the story is about and isn’t about, what’s important and what’s not. I have to admit to wanting them to just get on with the story but I was in a fairly impatient and irritated mood so that’s on me. I also struggled a little with the multiple points of view and jumps back and forward in time. I think I was expecting more of a straight story so it threw me off a bit when I got something completely different. I found it difficult to keep track of characters and how the various storylines linked together. I lost focus and found my concentration wandering.
Despite these niggles though there is a lot to like in the book. There’s a wonderful mix of different and quirky characters and I absolutely loved the way they developed over the course of the story. There’s a real depth to them and many of them are not what they first seem. It definitely highlights the theme that you can’t judge people based on appearances and you never really know what struggles other people are facing. I also loved the way the author played around with my own unconscious biases and expectations. I had more than one ah! moment when I realised I had made completely wrong assumptions based on my own preconceived notions.
Backman’s writing is as brilliant as always with lots of humour, great dialogue and some poignant and heartfelt moments (yes I cried). I wasn’t entirely sold on the switches from police interview to narrative as I found the change in style jarring but I did love the interview chapters. I felt like they brought the story to life. I probably would have preferred it if the story was told a little more simply and had more of a focus on one series of events rather than jumping around as it felt a little muddled to me.
Overall however it is still a good read and one I’d recommend to any Backman fans.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.