(translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch)
This is Backman’s second novel, following on from the huge success of his debut, A man called Ove (a novel I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.)
Once again, Backman combines a mixture of laugh out loud humour and pathos in his story, but this time, through the eyes of his seven year old narrator, Elsa, we enter a parallel world of fairy tale and fantasy, with dark creatures who threaten the safety of Elsa’s family. Elsa is an exceptionally bright seven year old, who’s being bullied mercilessly at school, and the only person who knows exactly what’s going on, is her outrageous, and impossible to manage, grandmother, Elsa’s only real friend.
Together, they create a secret language, superpowers, and escape into the “Land-of-Almost-Awake” to cope with their imperfect present. The main action centres around the unusual inhabitants of the apartment block they all live in, and their daily interactions. Unbeknownst to Elsa, her granny is preparing her to face the real villains and heroes in life. The story is full of mad adventures and craziness, that will make you laugh and make you cry. The story involves death and how we deal with it, bullying, violence, and the complications of love.
It’s a wonderful book, though very different to his first novel, so don’t expect the same formula this time. Highly recommended for year 8 and up. Warning: Granny does swear a lot!