Well! My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman was a surprise! A delightful surprise! I’m a happier person (and full of exclamation marks!) as I express the joy of this story!*
The story starts with Elsa, a delightfully precocious seven-year old and her 77-year old granny at the police station, having been caught breaking into a zoo after her granny broke out of hospital, drove unlicensed to the zoo, then threw animal turds (Elsa’s expression, not mine) at the police officers who arrested them.
Elsa and her granny have exactly the sort of relationship which all children should be lucky enough to have with their grandparents. Granny challenges Elsa, plays with her, protects her, squabbles with her, sends her to the shops for cigarettes (oh, maybe that’s not a good example…) and tells Elsa glorious fairy tales about a kingdom called Miamas in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, where Granny and Elsa are knights and wonderful things happen.
Elsa is a child who desperately needs someone to be on her side. She is bullied ferociously at school. Her parents are divorced and her mother, a career woman who has remarried, is heavily pregnant with Elsa’s half-sibling. The neighbours in Elsa’s apartment block are the most disfunctional group imaginable, some of whom treat Elsa as an irritation who they wish would go away.
After Elsa’s Granny died, I worried about how Elsa would cope without her, but I shouldn’t have. Granny left Elsa a quest.
The quest consisted of letters to be delivered by Elsa, in a sort of treasure hunt. As Elsa finds and delivers each letter she learns more about herself, her Granny, their neighbours and the other kingdoms in the Land-of-Almost-Awake. Along the way Elsa has to negotiate through her own shadows and fight dragons, but she also finds princesses and warriors, and most importantly, a wurse. (At this point I need to urge you to read this book for yourself to find out what a wurse is, rather than doing an internet search).
There is a lot going on in this story, but by the end, everything comes together beautifully.
The edition I read was translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch. I’ve been on a roll lately with Swedish fiction and have been enjoying the quirkiness of these. I wonder if Swedish authors were influenced by being brought up on Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, as the only thing all of these books have had in common is that anything might happen!
I laughed and cried reading My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, so it should be clear that I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
*The book isn’t full of exclamation marks. They’re all mine!