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Stepping outside your comfort zone with “Britt-Marie Was Here”: a review of Fredrik Backman’s novel

Book cover of Fredrik Backman’s novel, Britt-Marie Was Here. Woman in a skirt-suit with her back facing the camera with a handbag filled with cleaning products and a mouse on a soccer ball next to her feet.

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Swedish author Fredrik Backman has become quite the buzz-worthy author of late with his books appearing all over my bookish social media feeds. His first novel, A Man Called Ove became extremely popular and soon after that his books have become a worldwide hit. I decided to pick Britt-Marie Was Here as my first Backman novel solely based on the recommendation of a friend and fellow blogger, LC from Birdgehls (who is also an avid reader).

The novel is set in a place called Borg, a small and forgotten town that people drive through but rarely ever stay in. The novel begins at a crisis point for Britt-Marie, a 60-something-year-old woman who has recently left her cheating husband and perfectly clean and organised life. Although this stark change is difficult for Britt-Marie to understand or navigate, she leaves her old life because of the primal need for something different. What that is, she is yet to discover.

It can be easy for us to stay in our comfort zones. Change is difficult to process and make sense of because with change, comes uncertainty. The fear of uncertainty is what can keep us tied to our horrible jobs, terrible partners, nasty friends, and boring lives. It is easier to stay than to go out into the unknown. The unknown sucks. Yet Britt-Marie, unbeknownst to her, does just that: she decides to see what life will bring her in Borg.

The town is a bit kooky and it has its fair share of eccentric people, but each of them challenges Britt-Marie in a new way and forces her to open up her life, home, and cleaning habits with very unconventional people. If you ever needed literary motivation to step outside your comfort zone then Britt-Marie is it.

As someone who has left their home country to live abroad and definitely leapt headfirst into the unknown, it can be exhausting to challenge ourselves and push new boundaries, however, I would say that it should be almost mandatory for people to change up how and where they live in order to learn and grow more. When Britt-Marie moves to Borg she reassesses traditional male and female roles, pushes boundaries of what is considered ‘polite’ and ‘civilised’, and learns to love and accept people who on first glance might seem a little bananas.

So what books are you reading that have provoked you to make a change in your life? What other Backman books should I read? As always, share the reading love.

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2 thoughts on “Stepping outside your comfort zone with “Britt-Marie Was Here”: a review of Fredrik Backman’s novel

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. He writes with such humour – I had to chuckle every time Britt-Marie “screamed internally”. A lot of his characters make cameos in his other books, too, which is a delight.