Robyn Reviews: Anxious People

Fredrik Backman has a gift for writing people. He seems to understand how people think, how they interact with each other, their motivations, their desires, their fears, in a way that no-one else quite manages. His books are little slices of humanity, always profoundly moving experiences, beautifully written but without any flowery language. I wish I could speak Swedish just so I could experience them in their original form – but full credit to the translator, Neil Smith, for their exceptional job.

Anxious People is a brilliant book. It’s laugh out loud funny in places, sad in others, and changes the way you look at the world. Each character is fresh, unique, and perfectly written. The plot is, in many ways, completely insane, but it works – possibly because it’s almost incidental. This is a story about characters, not about events, and the madness of the plot illustrates perfectly the madness of humanity.

It’s a story about a bank robbery, except it’s not. It’s a story about a hostage situation, but to call it a hostage situation doesn’t do the book or the characters justice at all. Really, it’s a story about a bank robber, two police officers, a banker, a young lesbian couple, a retired couple who renovate homes, an actor, a grandmother, an estate agent, and a therapist. I could tell you more, but all I’m going to tell you is to read it. It’s brilliant, and it’s even more brilliant when you don’t know anything going in. Just enjoy being taken for the ride.

The characters are perfect. They all start perfectly normal, somewhat stereotypical, then layers upon layers are peeled back and suddenly you’re questioning everything. Backman takes every single assumption that people make and flips them. It’s clever and leaves you questioning everything, which is exactly how a novel should make you feel.

Read this book. I usually end my reviews by recommending books to a specific audience, but this book’s audience is everyone. There is no-one who wouldn’t benefit from reading this, and I think most will enjoy it. It’s fun, clever, very different, and an indescribably good reading experience. I’m so grateful to live in a time when we have a novelist like Fredrik Backman.


Published by Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Hardback: 20 August 2020


6 comments on “Robyn Reviews: Anxious People

  1. Glynis says:

    I have this on my shelf waiting tbr and I’m savouring even more the anticipation of picking it up after reading your great review.
    I don’t know if you’re aware but Backman himself was shot in the thigh during a bank robbery (I don’t know if he mentions it in the acknowledgements at all), but it does mean his telling of a robbery and events surrounding it are pretty accurate.

    • Robyn says:

      Thank you – I hope you enjoy it!
      I had no idea! That’s awful – hopefully the experience of writing about it was cathartic rather than traumatic for him

  2. BookerTalk says:

    This is so completely different from the only other book by Backman that I’ve read – Beartown. Quite an achievement to write in such different genres and be successful at both

  3. How fascinating. I love the itdea of challenging our expectations in this way. It’s probably the way any of us feel when in an anonymising situation like a bank queue. Thanks for a perfectly pitched review that tells just enough without spoiling anything!

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