Book Review: Anxious People | Fredrick Backman

Given what is happening throughout the world at present, I thought it would be fitting to read a novel titled, ‘Anxious People’, written by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman. Expecting a tale of worried people trying to navigate their way through life, I was pleasantly surprised that this laugh-out-loud book, was nothing of the sort.

Fredrik Backman, author of the renowned ‘A Man Called Ove’, as well as a number of top ten bestsellers, including ‘Things My Son Needs to Know About the World’ and ‘Britt Marie Was Here’, this latest novel really showcases his talent for intertwining sarcastic, witty humour and explicit characterisation into every page.

The plot revolves around a bungled bank robbery and ultimately, an unlikely hostage situation in an apartment listed for sale, whereby the hostages are connected in more ways than they realise.

Along with the armed bank robber, clad in a ski mask and clutching a rather dubious pistol, the captives are nothing like the frightened, cowering bunch you usually encounter in hostage situations. Instead, this motley crew made up of a heavily pregnant lesbian couple, an eccentric older husband and wife who strive to fix up newly purchased apartments, rather than fix their own marriage, a reminiscent elderly lady whose life experience equates to so much more than having a gun waved in her face, an executive from a bank (not the one that was unsuccessfully robbed) who cares for no-one but herself, and ah, a man dressed as a rabbit, are left realising that as time passes, perhaps it is actually the robber who needs rescuing.

As the hours drag on, personalities clash and tempers are tested within the walls of the small apartment, yet long-hidden secrets, hopes, failures and dreams of the captives are also gently revealed through Backman’s poignant prose.

Meanwhile, the bumbling and at times, hilarious, father and son police officers, Jim and Jack, who have been placed in charge of the case, scramble into action, attempting to communicate with the robber and ultimately see the hostages released unharmed.

Backman is undoubtedly a master at intertwining connecting tales into his novels that are funny, heart-breaking and incredibly believable. As a result, ‘Anxious People’ is full of twists and turns and the fact he has cleverly interlinked each character’s lives with at least one other, showcases his unparalleled understanding of human nature.

‘Anxious People’ is an amusing send-up of contemporary Swedish society and is a heart-felt book we could all gain something out of from reading in these testing times. I guess it’s  one of those stories that makes you realise that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday, and that our choices in life shape our tomorrows.

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