Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People

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.

The Blurb

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.

My Thoughts

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.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid


I hate Evelyn, but I think I like her very much

Wow, I’ve literally just finished this book but I can already tell that it’s one that’s going to stay with me for a while. It doesn’t make for the most comfortable of reads. Much like main protagonist Evelyn Hugo it’s brutally honest, unapologetic and morally grey but it’s also incredibly powerful, moving and compelling. It may have started out a little slow and I wasn’t sure it would live up to expectations but by the end I was an emotional wreck.


Reclusive Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant to write her story, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.

Determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career, Monique listens in fascination. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s – and, of course, the seven husbands along the way – Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. But as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likeable characters” (Real Simple), this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendour of Old Hollywood into the sobering realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means – and what it costs – to face the truth.


It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly

This is the story of a life, Hollywood screen legend Evelyn Hugo’s life (and loves) to be exact. She may be getting older and has been out of the public eye for some time but she has that special something that draws everyone to her. When Monique Grant, a relatively unknown magazine reporter, is invited to interview the elusive star no one knows why but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for her to find out the truth behind the scandals and the press stories, to discover the reasons why her marriages didn’t last and who the real love of Evelyn’s life was.

As Evelyn tells her story to Monique it becomes clear that she has picked Monique for a reason, that there is some connection between them. As Monique hears Evelyn’s story and discovers a shocking truth it makes her reevaluate her own life and beliefs.

I have to admit I found Evelyn’s story fascinating. It begins in the 1950’s when she’s in her teens, living in Hells Kitchen and follows her to the glamour of early Hollywood where, through sheer force of will and perseverance, she gets her big break in the movies. She trades on her looks and transforms herself into the person she needs to be to become someone in a world that doesn’t want her. She learns to play the game, she falls in love, discovers others aren’t always who they seem, has her heart broken, loses everything that matters and wins it back. It’s a truly compelling story of a wonderfully complex character.

From reading other reviews it does seem like a lot of people really don’t like Evelyn but I have to confess I admired her. Yes, she’s selfish and ruthless and does the wrong thing a lot of the time but she owns her actions which is something I love. She doesn’t apologize for them and she doesn’t regret them. She knows exactly who she is and what she’s willing to do.

So if we’re going by the metric that all’s well that end’s well, then I guess it’s safe to say that I’m not sorry.

When I was starting this book I did wonder if seven husbands was a bit much, if it would be too many characters and relationships for me to become invested in any particular one, or if I would even remember each husband but they’re so well crafted that they can’t help but be memorable and every one of them brought something to the story.

I will say that Harry Cameron, husband five and Evelyn’s best friend, was far and away my favourite. He’s not without his own demons but the relationship between them is truly something to be envied even if it isn’t necessarily romantic love. The others are a bit of a mixed bag. A couple seem like they could be the real thing, some of which become disappointments, there are marriages of convenience (usually Evelyn’s convenience) and there are unexpected true partnerships which redefine what love and family really means.

Interspersed among these stories of Evelyn is Monique in the present day. She isn’t necessarily the strongest character, she’s trying to get over the break up of her own marriage and lacking confidence, but she really grows throughout the story as she learns from Evelyn. So much so that by the end I was cheering her on and completely heartbroken when she finds out the truth about why Evelyn picked her to write her story.

I am so glad that I picked up this book. It isn’t my usual type of read but the writing is truly wonderful (I’ve highlighted a lot) and it has some very powerful messages throughout while remaining a compelling story. This was my first book by Reid but it definitely won’t be my last.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Review: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Love and Other Words
Love and Other Words
by Christina Lauren

This was a lot different from what I was expecting but I did kind of love it.


Love, loss, friendship, and the betrayals of the past all collide in this first women’s fiction novel from New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Autoboyography, Dating You / Hating You).

The story of the heart can never be unwritten.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to process this book but it really was kind of wonderful. Different to what I was expecting but somehow more.

Told in two separate time lines, one the present and the other 10-15 years earlier, it really drew me in to the lives of Macy and Elliot and the relationship between them. I absolutely adored watching them first become friends at the age of 11, seeing them grow up together and for that friendship to turn into something more. It’s just so sweet and real and perfect. Also, I have to say how much I loved the way the author portrayed the relationship between Macy and her father, the closeness and understanding between them was beautiful to read and I loved how much he tried as a single parent to do what was best for his daughter despite not really understanding her. He’s such a strong and reassuring presence.

The present day I wasn’t so sure about. I found it fascinating watching Elliot and Macy meet again 11 years later and I still adored Elliot but there was something about Macy I couldn’t get. It is deliberate, she’s shut down, unemotional and distant and it does work but makes it difficult to connect with her or understand her actions.

The story itself focuses primarily on their relationship and is a lot more serious than I was expecting but it does flow along quite nicely. The author gets the pacing pretty much spot on and the mixture of past and present is perfect. There is just enough revealed to give you an idea of what happened but still keep you guessing. It is an emotional read in places and I will admit to crying more than once (including in my workplace on one occasion) but it also made me smile and just sigh with the cuteness of it all.

It really is a wonderful story and I did come to really care about the characters. If you’re a fan of CoHo I think you’ll love this.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own

The Scandal by Fredrik Backman

The ScandalThe Scandal by Fredrik Backman

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Wow… This book was not at all what I was expecting, I actually put off reading it because I didn’t think it’d be my thing but…. wow.

Brilliant, powerful, atmospheric, frustrating, emotional, hopeful, beautiful and cold. The writing in this book is incredible, I think I ended up highlighting most of the book.

The Blurb

‘Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.’ 

Beartown is a small town in a large Swedish forest.

For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.

Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. Change is in the air and a bright new future is just around the corner.

Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

No one can stand by or stay silent. You’re on one side or another.

Which side will you find yourself on?

My Review

I have to admit I kind of wish they’d kept the title of this book as Beartown rather than The Scandal for the UK market as this story is about so much more than one event, it’s the story of a town, of a community. Yes there is a scandal (although I personally think that’s the wrong word to describe what happens) but really it’s about the environment that allowed such a thing to happen and the reaction of the residents and neighbours when it does.

It’s about a community that’s slowly being destroyed and has one final hope, one last chance, one thing they can be proud of and how they’ll go to any lengths to protect it. It’s about belief, faith, determination, hope and bravery but also about divisions in class and status, despair, grudges and inequality. It’s also about ice hockey, which may be only a game, but for the residents of Beartown hockey is everything. It both unites them and divides them. It’s their one final hope to save a town in the middle of nowhere which is slowly disappearing.

It’s only a game. It only resolves tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all.

I have to confess I know very little about hockey but for this story you could just as easily substitute in any sport as it’s more about the relationship between the sport and the town, although I suspect hockey was picked because it’s such a hard and violent sport (much like Beartown). Everyone has their hopes pinned on the junior team winning but they all have very different reasons for it. Some see it as a business opportunity, some a chance to escape and move up in the world and some just see it as proof that their town can still win at something.

It’s a very insular community. Small, isolated and fiercely proud of who they are. They have their own hierarchy, rules and beliefs all based around hockey. The more you can do for the team, the more power you have and the more you can get away with. The town is pretty much run by the best players and the sponsors but it’s unwise to ignore the hardcore working class fans either who feel the team belongs to them. Incomers, who don’t know the rules or have the same beliefs aren’t welcome. It’s very old fashioned, with only men allowed to play or even like hockey and the women expected to stay at home and support them. Everything is cold and hard and at times the whole story feels very claustrophobic, particularly when you see how everyone can turn on whoever falls out of line.

There aren’t really any main characters in this story but rather it’s told from multiple perspectives all of the time, jumping from one person to the next every page or two or sometimes every few paragraphs. These multiple view points and swift changes between them make it feel very episodic. I will admit I found it a little confusing in the beginning but it is brilliantly done and really gives you a feel for every aspect of the story. You’re very much in each and every moment and with every character and every single thing that happens feels completely real.

As you would expect there are some characters that are more likeable than others but as with all great stories I found my feelings towards them changing throughout as they developed and we found out more about them. A character I felt sorry for in the beginning turned out to be not very nice and one who didn’t really register, I kind of fell in love with by the end.

The story is slow, particularly in the beginning, but it’s captivating. The writing is beautiful and I found myself taking my time just to enjoy it. The author has such a wonderful way of capturing thoughts and beliefs. I always highlight sentences I like or that speak to me in some way as I read but had to stop myself from just highlighting everything it’s soo good.

I will say that I did find it frustrating in places, there are so many hints of what’s to come it began to drive me crazy, but it was literally impossible to put down. I read the majority of it in a day and this was while I was in the midst of a reading slump. I do think there was a little bit of the emotion missing, it didn’t stay in one place long enough, but it is a truly brilliant book.

I do feel like I have to add that there are a few events which may be triggers (I won’t put details here but happy to discuss in comments) but they are all handled with real sensitivity by the author.

Overall, this is definitely a book I’d recommend even if like me you’ve been put off by the idea of a book about hockey.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. As always all thoughts are my own.


Review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman

FaithfulFaithful by Alice Hoffman

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A beautifully written and emotional story I loved this book so much more than I expected I would. It is for the most part a sad story but the occasional moments of light and hope make it very engaging.

Despite the fact that she has written around thirty books this is the first Alice Hoffman book I’ve read, I think I felt they just weren’t my type of book, but when someone recommended this, her latest work, I thought why not. I am so glad I took their advice.

I’m not entirely sure how I would classify this book as it begins very much like a young adult contemporary but develops into a much more grown up story. It’s primarily about working out what’s important in life, recognizing the love and support family and friends provide and making the most of our time together. It left me kind of wanting to hug everyone I know and tell them I care about them.

The story follows Shelby Richmond over the period of about a decade. It begins a couple of years after a tragic car accident has transformed Shelby into a completely different person from the confident and popular girl she was in school and has left her best friend Helene in a coma. Full of survivors guilt, post traumatic stress and let down by those treating her for depression she believes she is nothing and doesn’t deserve the life she had planned out. She goes nowhere, does nothing and has absolutely no hope except when she begins to receive mysterious postcards giving her the motivation to take some action.

Whoever is writing these postcards seems to know exactly how she feels and what she needs and while the sender is a mystery they give her the push she needs to move out of her parents house, meet new people and begin to rebuild her life.

As I said, it’s not a happy story. In fact parts of it are depressing as hell but sometimes you just need this kind of emotional read. I don’t think I’ve cried this much over a book in a long time. It’s definitely not one I’d recommend reading while on public transport.

Main character Shelby is complicated and feels very real. There were aspects to her I loved, others I hated (she treats another character atrociously) and some which frustrated me no end. The most important thing though was that I cared and I could empathize with a lot of her feelings despite not having gone through anything like she has.

The other characters are just as complex and believable in their own way and the relationships between them were just the same. Her relationship with her mother in particular really got to me and the love her mum had for her was heartbreaking to read at times.

The book does cover a fairly long period of time but for the most part the timing felt right. It focuses in on specific periods then skims over others. My one gripe is that there were certain parts I wanted more of but I suppose that would have made the book considerably longer which may have made it less poignant.

There is also a little bit of weirdness around the Helene bit of the story which is necessary for the plot but seemed inexplicable to me in terms of certain characters behavior. Without giving too much away her parents keep her in some kind of limbo for years, not dead but not really alive either. This means that no one really gets any kind of closure which I think is the reasoning for it in the story but it just seems odd and other aspects I won’t go into are odder still.

These are however pretty minor quibbles in a story I loved a lot. I’m not sure it’s a book I’d want to read again (I don’t think I could go through the emotional turmoil more than once) but it’s definitely one I’d recommend.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an advance copy. All views are my own.

Blurb (from GoodReads)

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithfulis the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.