Monday, 27 February 2012

Challenge Me 2012 - February - Benny and Shrimp by Katerina Mazetti

Pages - 224
Published by Short Books Ltd in 2009

You'll have to be on your guard!
An aggrieved, single woman in a distinctly abnormal emotional state. Who knows what I might get up to at the next full moon? 
You have read Stephen King, haven't you?
I'm sitting by my husband's grave, on a dark green bench worn smooth by use, and letting his headstone irritate me. 

Goodreads Summary
An international sensation, this addictively readable tale asks the question: Why is it so impossible to get a relationship between two middle-aged misfits to work? The answer lies in the story of Shrimp, a young widowed librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order; Benny, a gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village's Old Bachelor; and an unlikely love that should not be as complicated as it seems. Reminiscent of the works of Carol Shields, this quirky, humorous, beautifully told novel breathes new life into the age-old conundrum that is love.
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After my disastrous Challenge Me read last month, I was so pleased to find a book that I really enjoyed. I will be honest and admit that I didn't know much about the book before I began reading it and I was convinced it was set in America; it was only as I progressed that I realised it was actually set in Sweden! 

The story is told in first person alternating between the viewpoints of Benny and Desiree, so you get to experience the relationship from both perspectives. I felt that their characters were stereotypical. In my mind, they seemed to represent what society would consider a typical farmer and librarian to be like. This was definitely a case of opposites attract. Both characters were too set in their ways to change to suit the other one. 

This book depicts the cycle of a love affair. When Benny and Desiree meet, they are both on the brink of depression, heading for a mid life crisis. They really found each other when they needed someone the most. You find them in the throws of emotion in the first budding days of the romance. It is the first time either of them have felt any strong emotions for another individual and both seem to struggle with it.  Yet as the relationship progresses, their differences begin to pull them apart. Unfortunately neither of them really understood how to commit to a normal loving relationship, so they had nothing to build on.   I kept thinking about the film Frankie and Jonnie as I read it. 

Benny and Desiree really dominate the story line. All of the other characters tend to fade into the background and become rather unnecessary. Inez really intrigued me as a character though. I couldn't work out if she was sane or not. Her ability to watch and record people so well made her rather knowledgeable yet strange. Within the book, her unusual habits were treated with indifference rather than concern. Personally, I  probably would of had her committed  if I had known her. 

This book was happy and sad. I found my emotions following alongside the characters as the relationship went from good to bad. The ending was unexpected. I really hadn't considered how it would pan out in the first place, but I was definitely surprised by the last chapter. 

I loved the verses of poetry at the start of every chapter, as they gave you a feel of how each passage would progress. 

On the whole I really enjoyed the book. I found the story to be a realistic outline of what love can be like.  The chapters are short and sweet and keep drawing you back in as you witness each viewpoint. 

An excellent choice for my Challenge Me project. Thank you Naida for challenging me to read it!

14 comments:

  1. Not too sure this is a read for me, I know I shouldn't be influenced by these things but I confess I'm rather put off by both the cover and the title. glad you enjoyed it though, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. The title had me a little wary of it, but I did enjoy it.

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  2. This sounds like a great read, though I'm not sure that I wouldn't get frustrated by a stereotypical librarian character.

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    1. It is possible. But this is only my view. Others may not see the stereotypical characterisations.

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  3. I've read a lot of great reviews of this book so I'm not surprised you liked it.

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  4. Interesting. Sounds like there's a lot more to it than the cover and title suggest.

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  5. *yay* so glad you enjoyed this book Viv!
    I can see where they reminded you of Frankie and Johnnie (great film). I know what you mean about Inez.
    I really love how quirky this book was, and I found such sweet quotes within it.
    I enjoyed your review. I want to re-read this one at some point.

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    1. It was a good choice. I should be giving you brownie points for it.

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  7. I knew it sounded familiar, the guy in the grave "next door# (fast translation from Swedish). I gave this one to mum to read

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  8. I have to admit, I read this when it first came out and agree that it is definitely realistic, but admittedly, blase.

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