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Funny, Heart-warming and Utterly Unpredictable

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Cover of the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman featuring a very anxious looking man holding a sign featuring the titleand author's name against a light blue background. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

As the title suggests, this is a book about a group of anxious people. 

There is a would-be bank robber, who has made a terrible mistake, and a group of people at an apartment viewing who suddenly find themselves in a hostage situation. 

And they are the worst hostages ever! Not even slightly threatened by the would-be bank robber, the hostages are drinking wine in the closet and are intent on ordering free pizzas from the police; all the while opening up about themselves to each other, revealing their own, individual insecurities and anxieties.

I loved the characterisation in this book. There are ten characters, which is a lot, but it’s not hard to follow because of the way it’s written and the fact that each of the characters are so unique. I particularly enjoyed the interaction between the father and son police officers, tasked with rescuing the hostages and solving the case before a special investigative team from Stockholm are sent to take charge. 

Ultimately, ‘Anxious People‘ is a book about being human. And it’s a reminder to the reader that you never really know what is going on in someone else’s life, or why they act or behave the way that they do. Everyone is just trying to do their best every day.

Whilst ‘Anxious People‘ deals with some pretty serious subjects and is a very heart-warming read, it is also very funny! It reminded me of the movie, ‘Death at a Funeral’; similar in that there is an underlying hilarity and quirkiness which makes it very entertaining, without taking away from the seriousness of the issues raised.

This book made me laugh out loud, at times catching me so unaware and being so utterly ridiculous, almost slapstick, that I could actually imagine this book as a stage show. If it was a stage show instead of a book, I think that at the end of the performance you’d leave the theatre having had a really good laugh, perhaps shed a tear of two and think, “Well, that was a really good night out“.

Published 2019 by Penguin Random House, 336 pages.