1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Norwegian adolescence,
This review is from: It's Fine By Me (Paperback)
Its Fine By Me is semi-autobiographical and could be called a "coming of age" novel in that it follows the life of Audan between the ages of 12 and 18. Audan lives with his mother and sister in a working-class suburb of Oslo. He had a brother who was killed in a road accident and Audan now struggles with his role as "number one son", while his shadowy and violent father comes and goes, wreaking havoc whenever he turns up on the scene. Interestingly Audan's best friend is Arvid who is the main character in the earlier book, I Curse the River of Time.
When you read Petterson you see a different side to the Scandinavian experience than that depicted in home and living magazines. Rather than elegant houses set among scenic lakes, furnished with clean-lined sofas and expensive electronics, you find yourself in working class areas among docks and factories, as rough and ready as any industrial area. Alcohol seems to be a perennial problem, and when people leave a bar they fight each other before leaving for their troubled, down-at-heel homes.
Audan comes from such a home - his father makes occasional appearances but is greeted with with a low-level terror by his family who know that arguments end up with a beating from the angry drunk. He keeps a gun and on one occasion he leaves home and turns round and shoots at the house, breaking the kitchen window and narrowly missing Audan's mother.
The book slips back and forth between the years, with Audan being 13 in one chapter and 17 in the next, then back again, his reminiscences always being acute, social interactions mixed in with glowing descriptions of the nearby Norwegian countryside.
Audan eventually drops out of school and begins work in a noisy, dangerous print-works. The factory prints newspapers and magazines and Petterson describes the perils of splicing huge rolls of paper to each other without stopping the rollers of the press. One worker loses his fingers during a moment's inattention but Audan takes to the work and finds some satisfaction in it.
There is so much more in this book than I can mention here - descriptions of summer job as a farm-hand, a terrible fight which Audan gets into,a mission to rescue his sister from what seems to be terrible danger - this is an interesting book, full of anecdotes but with an emerging story of a boy's journey from childhood to man-hood.
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. I assumed that the publishers were now publishing 20 year-old work from an immature Petterson, but was surprised to find that I probably liked this one more than any of the author's later works. I immediately liked Audan's "voice" (the book is written in the first person) and found myself sympathising with his troubles. He exhibits all the traits of adolescence - from wearing sun-glasses at all times to finding ways of separating himself from his mother. But his struggles are real and he deals with them courageously if not always successfully.