June 12, 2021

Book Recommendation: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

"A young woman is trying to rob a bank. To escape arrest, she enters an apartment for sale and holds hostages everyone there: the over-enthusiastic real estate agent, a retired couple renovating and selling apartments to fill the gap in their marriage, two girls who quarrel about everything all the time but are preparing to have a child together, a cynical female director with suicidal tendencies, an old woman suffering from loneliness. Police are surrounding the apartment and, as the agony peaks, hostages, the robber, and the police begin to come together and discover that they have more in common than they could have imagined." [from the book blurb]

At the beginning of 2021, I promised myself that I would read more books this year. In the end, I may not have an Oscar or a Nobel Prize yet, but once at summer camp I was awarded as the "no.1 Bookworm" and I must honor my title!

Somehow, my path intersected with the book Anxious People. It is often said not to judge a book by its cover, but there is no corresponding saying for the title, and this one definitely invited me to read it. Meanwhile, having already read previous novels by Fredrik Backman, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed, as he has rightfully now earned a place among my favorite contemporary writers. His characteristic writing style, which you can't confuse with any other, manages to combine with great success an almost childlike innocence with disarming truths about human nature. In the characters of Backman, the reader recognizes their mom, their neighbor, that friend they had made one summer and never saw again, but also their own selves. One moment they burst into laughter, the next they cry with emotion, and finally, they feel complete, along with a small complaint because their reading experience has come to an end (the well-known bittersweet feeling of a good book).

Anxious People is no exception. Through a series of events that sometimes slightly reach the limits of surrealism, the stories of the heroes unfold and intersect in a small town in Sweden on the occasion of perhaps the strangest hostage-taking. Heroes that are not "black-and-white", that you slowly love because they just aren't perfect. At the same time, the author isn't afraid to touch on sensitive issues (mental health, immigration, homophobia, mourning, family relationships, etc.), not just to check the "news boxes", but because he understands that they are "part" of us while speaking about them honestly combined perfectly with incredible subtlety and tenderness. The upheavals follow one another, chapter by chapter, page by page, even paragraph by paragraph, and the emotional surprises are endless. For lovers of literary terms, this book is an excellent example of proper handling of the technique in media res, but also mise en abyme, as, despite the time sequences, parallel stories, and different perspectives, the narration remains clear, does not tire or confuse the reader, but instead increases their interest.

Anyone who has talked to me lately has definitely heard of Anxious People. This is a book that reminds you of the comforting power of literature. A book that travels you through its own world, but at the same time makes you think about your own. A book that if I were a child I would read secretly under the covers because the time would have passed and I should sleep, but I couldn't leave it in my hands and all book lovers know the value of this.

So if you want to laugh and be moved to tears, I highly recommend it (along with a pack of tissues)!

Photography by Evelina Papadopoulou

Alexandra Sklavou

Alexandra was born in Athens two years before the change of the millennium, but now lives in Thessaloniki as a student of the Aristotle University. She likes reading books, travelling, drinking countless cups of tea, and talking a bit, (or a lot), more than average. She is a perfectionist, a somewhat know-it-all, but she is full of optimism and has plenty of words of consolation. She hates waking up late because she claims to be "losing half a day" and is the right person to host a unique surprise party.

Chrysanthi Dimanidou (she/her)

Born and raised in Thessaloniki but her mind is constantly traveling to other countries and places. Seriously addicted to books, good music and a hot cup of tea. Madly in love with languages since a little kid and her dream; moving to Asia someday!

Panagiota Ioannidou (she/her)

A chocoholic vegetarian from Thessaloniki that fell in love at first sight with the English language. She has a mind full of poems trapped in a ballerina’s body. Torn between a night walker and an early bird. Devoted to special needs children’s self-expression through dancing. In times of darkness, she keeps searching for inspiration, warm hugs, long journeys and her dog’s kiss.

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