There is something of the fairy story about Fredrik Backman’s “Anxious People” – which probably shouldn’t be a surprise from the man who have us “A Man Called Ove”. You might also argue that “Anxious People” is a rare novel these days: one which, in the flurry of positivity towards the end, manages to resolve all its characters’ issues in an upbeat way.
‘Feel-good’ feels unfashionable.
The way Backman structures the novel probably helps us on the overall emotional journey too, cutting from one scene to another, from one perspective to another, and giving us just enough rope to hang ourselves – as it were. When it becomes unquestionably upbeat, not only are we ready for it, but we know that everything is going to work out just fine. For everyone. Which is what we want too.
The blurb on my copy talks about it being “comforting”, “a joy”, “[it] will help you restore your faith in humanity”. That should give you a clue…
My only quibble? [Spoiler alert!]
Early on we’re told that for years Jim’s daughter/Jack’s sister (who has gone off the rails) has regularly asked for money so that she can fly home to see them – which she never does. At the end, Jim and Jack set off to get her – on what is apparently a 24-hour drive. Wherever she is, it must be a short enough flight to get home then? And if she’s only, what?, 700-800 miles away, then why haven’t they gone to her before now – or even taken a train? As I say, it’s a minor thing – and the important part is that the journey and reconciliation (off camera) will be Jim’s and Jack’s ‘happy ending’.
Picky? It’s just my editor head kicking in, I suppose.
But don’t let that stop you reading it!