Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Photo by Abbie Rutherford

Six people attend the viewing of an upmarket apartment on New Year’s Eve when an incompetent bank robber takes them hostage. Backman’s tale of strangers who are thrown together in unexpected circumstances, along with the police investigation, is really the story of ‘idiots’ (as Backman refers to them) trying to get through life in the best possible way that they can while attempting to overcome the obstacles thrown at them.

Anxious People is a quirky book with a narrative structure that jumps between the police interviews, the hostages’ backstories and the events that occur in the apartment. It is in equal measure humorous and emotional, as you would expect from a plot that involves the intricacies of the lives of its characters. We are introduced to each of the characters, including the police officers investigating the case, and we get to know them intimately as Backman describes all of their foibles and anxieties.

The age range of the characters enables Backman to conduct an exploration of modern life from the perspectives of multiple generations, and what we find is that, ultimately, there is not much difference between us. Throughout the novel Backman drops philosophical insights into everything from love, life, mental illness, and issues such as political division and social media, leaving you pondering on modern life and the human condition. The author manages to do this, however, without coming across as moralistic, interweaving these insights seamlessly within the plot.

A moving and yet entertaining look at how inextricably linked we are as humans that is both uplifting and life affirming. Anxious People should definitely be on your bookshelf for those times you are in need of a comfort read and an escape from these often-difficult times.

Read more by Abbie Rutherford

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