26 November 2012

Review: It's Fine by Me by Per Petterson

These days, when American readers think of Scandinavian writers, Stieg Larsson, Camilla Läckberg, and Jo Nesbø quickly come to mind. Although I'm a huge fan of these authors, I'm also very aware that Scandinavian literature reaches far beyond crime fiction.

Per Petterson, a prize-winning Norwegian author, writes some of the region's finest literary fiction. He homes in on the essence of his characters, revealing at once their inner vulnerabilities and their public bravado.

Per Petterson's It's Fine by Me is a haunting coming-of-age story, stripped down to its essentials. Audun Sletten was only thirteen when his mother relocated her three children from the country to a working-class neighborhood of Oslo. Starting on day one at his new school, Audun set himself apart; a childhood spent with a mean drunk of a father dissolved his trust, and he's just fine on his own, reading books and dreaming of being a writer.

Over the ensuing five years, Audun finds little happiness. Tragedy, money troubles, and a growing distance between him and his family, has left the teen unsure of his direction. When events from his past begin to collide with the present, he finally takes action, hoping for both independence and peace.

In many ways, Audun is a typical teenager, caught in limbo between childhood and adulthood. He's essentially a good kid, but his lingering anger at his father and deeply buried sadness sometimes get the better of him, causing him to act out. Audun is such a realistic character, it's easy to become invested in his story.

I'm not quite sure what I can add to the conversation about Per Petterson. Perhaps my experience with It's Fine by Me can be summed up by Audun's reaction after reading a passage from a friend's book:
. . . I read the page, and the next; it's pure, concise writing about things that you walk around turning over in your mind. I have to have this book, there is something different here, open, bold. (p. 34)
And indeed, Petterson writes about ordinary people in everyday situations. But his perspective makes it new and his strong characterizations makes it personal. Audun Sletten with remain in your thoughts long after you've finished his story. I hope he finds the future he deserves.

Buy It's Fine by Me at an Indie or at a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by Graywolf Press, 2012 (translated by Don Bartlett)
ISBN-13: 9781555976262
Rating: A-
Source: Review (see review policy)
t © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 11/26/12, 8:54 AM  

I love coming of age stories. This one sounds outstanding!

Zibilee 11/26/12, 10:40 AM  

For some reason, this reminds me a bit of Angela's Ashes, but in all the best ways possible. I would love to read this one sometime, as I think the coming of age experience in places other than America is unusually fascinating. Great review today. This one sounds like something that would be worth checking out!

Daryl 11/26/12, 11:20 AM  

another getting added to the ever growing list

Kailana 11/26/12, 11:58 AM  

I haven't actually read any of the crime fiction... I have read him before, though! I guess I do things differently. :)

Beth Hoffman 11/26/12, 12:49 PM  

I loved his novel "Out Stealing Horses" and didn't know he had a new offering. This is going on my list right now!

Benita @ Tiny Tim's Garden 11/26/12, 12:52 PM  

What a feat to combine such remarkable themes: a character uprooted, the abused child, coming of age and writing. This is definitely going on my TBR list and thanks for sharing, Beth.

Nise' 11/26/12, 10:18 PM  

I've read this author and look forward to this book.

Unknown 11/26/12, 10:19 PM  

I love coming of age books. I've not had a great love with Scandinavian authors, but this sounds very good. Nice review.

Julie P. 11/28/12, 8:26 PM  

I've always meant to read this author but I've never gotten around to it.

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