Anxious People

Anxious People


In a small town in Sweden it appears to be an ordinary day. But look more closely, and you'll see a mysterious masked figure approaching a bank...

Two hours later, chaos has descended. A bungled attempted robbery has developed into a hostage situation - and the offender is refusing to communicate their demands to the police.

Inside the building, fear quickly turns to irritation for the seven strangers trapped inside. If this is to be their last day on earth, shouldn't it be a bit more dramatic?

But as the minutes tick by, they begin to suspect that the criminal mastermind holding them hostage might be more in need of rescuing than they are...

Our Review

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman was an outstanding book, I would go as far as to say it is the best book I have read so far this year.

In theory this is a book about a bank robber who’s attempt to rob a bank goes badly wrong and accidently ends up in a hostage situation.

As the process unfolds the hostages realise that the one who needs the most help is the bank robber.

Anxious People is all about how we interact with other people and the effect strangers can have on each other’s lives.

This is not the first book I have read by this author and so far I have loved every one.  Each one contains intricately detailed characters that you feel like you have known your whole life and this book didn’t disappoint. I highly recommend reading and its sequel and I will be ordering his other books as soon as my TBR diminsihes slightly.

“Bank robbery. A hostage drama. A stairwell full of police officers on their way to storm an apartment. It was easy to get to this point, much easier than you might think. All it took was one single really bad idea.

This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.”

One of the things I always find in his novels is that he talks about the minutiae of modern life and it’s problems, in sort of a Matt Haig way.

“There’s such an unbelievable amount that we’re all supposed to be able to cope with these days. You’re supposed to have a job, and somewhere to live, and a family, and you’re supposed to pay taxes and have clean underwear and remember the password to your damn Wi-Fi. Some of us never manage to get the chaos under control, so our lives carry on, the world spinning through space at a million miles an hour while we bounce about on it’s surface like so many lost souls. Our hearts are bars of soap that we keep losing hold of; the moment we relax, they drift off and fall in love and get broken, all in the wink of an eye. We’re not in control. So we learn to pretend, all the time, about our jobs and our marriages and everything else. We pretend we’re normal.”

Backman tries, and succeeds in encouraging the reader to feel empathy for all the characters, but especially the bank robber.

 “Sometimes it hurts, it really hurts, for no other reason than the fact that our skin doesn’t feel like it’s ours. Sometimes we panic, because the bills need paying and we have to be grown-up and we don’t know how because it’s so horribly, desperately easy to fail at being grown up.”

Anxious People challenges the assumptions we make about other people. For example, the bank robber who accidentally took people hostage. A lot of assumptions could be made about the bank robber that would not necessarily be true.

“So after the bank robbery that wasn’t actually a bank robbery the police showed up, of course. So the bank robber got scared and ran out across the street and into the first door that presented itself. It’s probably a bit harsh to label the bank robber an idiot simply because of that but it certainly wasn’t an act of genius.”

One of my favourite things about Anxious People was the dynamic between Jim and Jack. When she was alive Jim’s wife filled the gap between them, smoothed things other and now they struggle to find ways of communicating how they feel.

“Older men rarely know what to say to younger men to let them know they care. “

There were many parts of the book that made me reflect and were sad but there were also many that made me laugh out loud. The passage below was one which made me chuckle to myself for quite a while.

“A bank robber robs a bank. Think about that for a moment.

Obviously, it has nothing to do with you. Just as little as a man jumping off a bridge. Because you’re a normal decent person, so you would never have robbed a bank. There are simply some things that all normal people understand you must never under any circumstances do. You mustn’t tell lies, you mustn’t steal, you mustn’t kill and you mustn’t throw stones at birds. We all agree on that.

Except maybe swans, because swans can actually be passive aggressive little bastards.”

Anxious People is one of those books that starts of as one thing and then twists and turns into being about other things. Backman addresses this several times throughout the book and uses it to advance the story.

“The whole thing is a complicated, unlikely story. Perhaps that’s because what we think stories are about often isn’t what they are about at all. This, for instance, might not actually be the story of a bank robbery, or an apartment viewing, or a hostage drama. Perhaps it isn’t even a story about idiots.

Perhaps this a story about a bridge.”

The final chapter of this book is one of the best I have read. I wouldn’t normally share the final chapter of any book as I don’t want to ruin things for people but this one contains no spoilers and is a lovely piece of writing.

“The truth? The truth about all this? The truth is that this was a story about many different things, but mostly about idiots. Because we’re all doing the best we can, we really are. We’re trying to be grown up and love each other and understand how the hell you’re supposed to insert USB leads. We’re looking for something to cling on to, something to fight for, something to look forward to. We’re doing all we can to teach our children how to swim. We have all this in common, yet most of us remain strangers, we never know what we do to each other, how your life is affected by mine.

Perhaps we hurried past each other in a crowd today and neither of us noticed, and the breast of your coat brushed against mine for a single moment and then we were gone. I don’t know who you are.

But when you get home this evening, when this day is over and the night takes us, allow yourself a deep breath. Because we made it through this day as well.

There’ll be another one along tomorrow.”



Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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