Books & Literature

Book Review: Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman

COMEDY: A riotous comedy about a hostage-situation at a Swedish apartment viewing. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

The perfect book to read if you want to unwind with a story that will give you all the feels.

Set in a small Swedish town, an apartment viewing is thrown into chaos when a figure with a gun emerges through the door. After fleeing a botched bank robbery, the robber is left with no choice but to hold these eight strangers hostage after taking refuge inside. Fear soon turns to frustration when the eight impatient strangers decide this hostage situation is not meeting their expectations. As the bank robber’s anxiety increases over this unruly bunch, going to gaol begins to feel like a better option.

The story is well-paced with every sentence moving it forward with purpose, revealing well-timed twists and explanations. It focusses on the experience of each character from the people in the apartment to the police officers trying to navigate their way through their first hostage experience. The story switches between the police interviews with the released hostages, back to the experiences inside the apartment in a format that’s easy to follow. During the apartment flashbacks, a snippet of each character’s back story is revealed, which results in real and relatable characters.

Fredrik Backman has a unique writing style. At first, it feels as though the story is jumping around and going off track. However, it isn’t long before the deeper plot reveals itself and each story is intertwined, leading the reader through the real heart of the story. This could have easily been a standard story about a bank robbery gone wrong, but it’s so much more than that. Never would I have thought that I would be finishing a crime novel feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Each character has depth and relevance to the story. What starts off as a “story about idiots” slowly unravels into a subtle lesson about the perils of judging strangers. As more is revealed about each character the reader will begin to understand why the characters are the way they are, building empathy and investment in the story.

Backman’s strength is his ability to tell an engaging and multilayered story which takes the reader through an emotional journey of suspense, intrigue, laughter and sadness. It’s difficult to elaborate too much on this as so much of the enjoyment is in the surprise of each reveal.

Anxious People is the perfect book to read if you want to unwind with a story that will give you all the feels. At its core it’s a clever and honest story about what it’s like to be human. Told with compassion and wit, it shows how heartbreaking and humours life can be. A lovely reminder of how small acts of kindness can change someone’s day.

Reviewed by Jessica Incoll
Twitter: @littlejadventur

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: August 2020
RRP: $32.99

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