The hilarious, heart-breaking new novel by the author of the international bestseller A MAN CALLED OVE.
‘Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny’s secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can’t quite put her finger on…’
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother’s stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.
So when Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa’s greatest adventure. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.
Having enjoyed Backman’s “A Man Called Ove“, I was eager to read some of his other bestsellers and chose “My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologies” for its overwhelming popularity on Goodreads and quite frankly, I liked the style of the front cover! However, having just come to the end, I can honestly say that I have been disappointed. The writing style didn’t grip me and it took a while to find the motivation to pick the book back up and continue.
The characters were varied and plenty in number yet I was unable to build emotion and connection with any of them. The introduction of mysterious knife wielding Sam seemed bizarre and unnecessary, the woman in the black skirt had an interesting story which seemed to be quickly brushed under the carpet, but one of my key problems with this book was my dislike for the protagonist, Elsa, a seven almost-eight-year-old. In my eyes Elsa was a character unrealistically wise beyond her years. I can’t say I have much experience in seven, almost-eight-year-olds but it seems unlikely to me that a child who still has her clothes set out by her mother is able to tackle such difficult topics such as terrorism, war and politics while going around correcting grammar in red pen. Other characters themselves identified this point: Alf, a neighbour of Elsa, looks at her at one point as if he found what she had said “a bit of a bloody mouthful for an eight-year-old.” It seems to me that Backman and I have different views on age. In “My Grandmother Sends..” we are presented with a 8 year old acting 18, in “A Man Called Ove” a man in his fifties is portrayed as a much older man in his mid-eighties.
Characters aside, I also had an issue with the story telling side of the plot. I found myself losing interest in all of the different names, places and characters of her Granny’s fairy tale Land -of-Almost-Awake. While I can appreciate the view point of the main character and her creative way of understanding the people and world around her, the constant story telling throughout sometimes took away from the often insightful morals of the plot.
Not all monsters were monsters in the beginning. Some are monsters born of sorrow.
All that said, I did enjoy many aspects of this book, including the main moral of the story – there is much more to a person than it may first appear. I enjoyed the relationship building between Elsa and her parents towards the end of the story and also her relationship with Wolfheart. Many sections of the book were enjoyable and engaging, it’s just a shame that there were also many sections which dragged on and on.
Overall rating: I wanted to love it, but this story just didn’t do anything for me. “My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologies” scores a disappointing 2 stars.