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Posted August 25, 2009
A light hearted read
Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti features two middle aged people from two very different backgrounds. Shrimp is a widowed librarian who feels her biological clock ticking. Benny is a farmer, who had lived with his mother and after she passes away, he has a fear of becoming the Bachelor for Life. At a chance encounter at a cemetary, you read a story of a relationship of two very different people which leads to humorous and frustrating events.
You will find the story is divided into both Benny and Shrimp's point of view and interchanges with each chapter you read. I like the way this is done. You get to see both of their viewpoints and it makes it a very entertaining and fun read. You get to read what makes both of them tick and what they really think but never had the heart to say to spare each other's feelings. I actually started laughing in the first few chapters it was that funny! as the story progresses I found myself laughing more especially when they starting buying each other gifts. You can just imagine two very different people with very different tastes trying to give each other presents. It's hilarious. When they're experiencing a rough patch in their relationship, you get to see both sides of the perspectives and you can't help to wondering which one is more funny, Benny or Shrimp. Everything is done in a clear and concise way, that you won't feel confused as you read this book. It's all written clearly and simply which gives the story a good overall clean look and feel.
I love both of them. They're great characters. Shrimp lives the pampered cultured career woman life. She loves books, reading, her job, lattes, the opera, herbal teas. Yes you get the hint. Benny loves his farm, attending to his cows, he wants a wife that can take care of him and help maintain his farm. He loves "pimp daddy" clothing, that Shrimp thinks is absolutely gaudy, he has his mom's cross stitch work up on the walls of his house. So you can see how different they are. However when they come together it's like a chemistry and a passionate love which makes them feel as if they were teenagers on their first dates. Yet they have to work through enormous differences and a lot of sacrifices if they want to be permanently together. I loved how they argued; it mirrors all people's relationships; we fight over the most trivial things but yet in the end, love prevails and holds the bond together making forgiveness easier even if the apologies haven't been said.
Pick this book up if you want a light hearted fast read. It'll make you laugh and smile, and perhaps even cry.
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Posted August 2, 2009
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A terrific adult love story
If you are tired of reading books that have gorgeous heroines with fantastic jobs and great bodies who find love with a handsome, rich guy, and are looking for something a little more realistic, Benny & Shrimp by Swedish author Katerina Mazetti is out there for you just waiting to be read.
Shrimp is a young, sad widow visiting the grave of her husband, who died several months ago. On the bench next to her is Benny, visiting his parents' gravesite. Whereas Shrimp's husband's grave is spare, just a natural stone chunk with plain lettering, Benny's parents' gravesite is garish, overly decorated with white marble, gold lettering, lots of plantings and statues.
Benny is a thirty-something milk farmer, living alone on the family farm, trying desperately to make it work. Shrimp works at the town library, lonely except for a single friend Marta. Benny wants to date, and his mum used to nag at him to find a girl, "as if they existed somewhere, a flock of willing girls, and all you had to do was go out and select one. Like taking your rifle out in hunting season to bag yourself a hare.'
Benny decides to take a chance, and he follows Shrimp back to the library and taps her on the shoulder. Although she is at first rude to him, they go to lunch and when Shrimp tells Benny it is her birthday, he takes to her a department store and starts picking out gifts for her. (Aww- so sweet!)
So begins their intense love affair. Shrimp is not a woman many people would notice. She is thin, mousy and people were surprised when she married her much better looking husband. Benny is overweight, has three fingers on one hand, and smells like manure. But their physical relationship is hot. Shrimp says "He hadn't just turned my head, he rotated it so many times that it came off and I had to hold it on a string like a balloon, while my body twisted and wallowed."
Mazetti's way with words is delightful. She crafts her sentences so thoughtfully, it is a joy to read them. Benny describes Shrimp's all white and metal decor in her apartment by saying that "(B)efore I know it, somebody will stick their head around the door and say, "Do come in. The doctor will see you now!"
Benny and Shrimp are really opposites in many ways. He spends twelve hours a day farming, in muck and mud. He is looking for a wife, a partner to help him and live his lifestyle. Shrimp likes her lifestyle- she enjoys her job, books and opera. The life of a farmer's wife does not suit her. Can their love overcome these differences?
The author has written an adult novel, one in which two people who love each other have to decide if they can make a big sacrifice for the other. She puts her characters in situations that people can relate to, and just when you think you have this story figured out, she throws in a big curveball at the end of the story that you don't see coming.
I read Benny & Shrimp in one evening. I fell in love with Benny and Shrimp, (more Benny than Shrimp) and rooted for their unlikely love affair to last, even though a voice in my head said the obstacles were likely insurmountable. (Be quiet, voice in my head!)
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Posted October 25, 2009
Benny is a farmer who has never been married. His mother just died. Shrimp is a young widow. They meet at the grave site of their lost loved ones and share a bench. At first they can't stand each other. And although they are complete opposites, an attraction builds. It was fun following them through their relationship and finding out if they made it or not. The chapters are very short, just a few pages each, the first one starts with Shrimp as the narrator, the second one Benny, and so it goes throughout the book, sometimes telling their own version of the same incident. How can a neat and orderly semi-vegetarian and a messy farmer have chance at a relationship? I laughed, felt like crying and wanted to bang some heads together. I think the book is just the right length, if it had been longer I might have gotten tired of it all, but as it is, I felt the ending was timed perfectly.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 7, 2009
Opposites Attracting, or two lonely opposites in love?
This book begs the question, do opposites attract and if so, can it work? That seems to be the theme of this book. Or is it, do two lonely people who are completely opposite fall for each other just out of need?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Frankly, I loved this book. It was a fast read, passionate and left me wondering about Benny and Shrimp's relationship. I wasn't sure what I wanted from them. I wanted Benny to find a wife. I wanted Shrimp to be that wife. However, at the same, I didn't want Shrimp to be that wife. Contradictory, huh? On the other hand, I wanted Benny, the lovable farmer, to enjoy the culture that Shrimp wants to share but at the same time I wanted Shrimp to adapt to farm life. Sigh. Tis love, I guess.
Sometimes books that were popular in their native language, doesn't translate well into English but that doesn't seem to be an issue here. From Swedish to English, the point, the prose and the love came across. Give this a chance, I am disappointed I didn't sooner. This is definitely one I will read again.
Posted September 28, 2009
One relationship - 2 viewpoints
Benny & Shrimp opens with Desireé (Shrimp) sitting on a bench in a cemetery. She is a young widow, who was married to a seemingly perfect man - Orjan. They had settled into a comfortable but passionless marriage when he suddenly died. But, she comes several times a week, sitting for an hour at a time. "Presumably in the hope of getting down to the right sort of grieving if I stick at it long enough."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Benny, an unmarried dairy farmer, who desperately needs and wants a wife to take care of him and his house, is also at the cemetery regularly. He attends the grave of his parents with great zeal, always gardening and cleaning. "Going to the grave is my only breathing space."
His parent's stone is beside Orjan's. Benny sits on the bench beside Shrimp. They are unaccountably annoyed with each other for being there. Until the day they smile at each other...
What follows is a telling of a burgeoning relationship from two viewpoints - his and hers, told in alternating chapters. Mazetti has done a phenomenal job of taking the same event or incident and completely changing it based on each character's outlooks, beliefs, dreams and hopes.
That initial smile? Each assumes the other was smiling for the same reason - they weren't. The two are polar opposites, with altogether different interests. What draws them together is passion, loneliness and ticking biological clocks.
Can these two thoroughly disparate souls find happiness together?
I found the two narratives of the same story utterly fascinating and couldn't wait to see what the other thought of the same incident. Neither character is willing to give in or back down and there's the story. What are you willing to sacrifice for happiness? How much would you give up?
Katarina Mazetti has created characters that evoke strong emotions. I changed my feeling for the characters many times over the course of the book. She presents both male and female viewpoints with equal skill and insight. I must admit though - I ended up liking Benny much more than Shrimp. Have you read it yet? What were your thoughts at the end?
There is a great set of questions included as a Reader's Guide with the book. I think it would make an interesting selection for a book club.
Posted September 26, 2009
Sweet, Quirky Romance
I have recommended Benny and Shrimp to a number of my friends. They all enjoyed this sweet romance. Benny is a lonely single farmer whose only company are his cows. Shrimp is a recently widowed young librarian in town who in retrospect questions what her marriage was really about. The awkward meeting of this "farm boy" and "city girl" in a cemetery is the start of a quirky love story that is a quick and fun read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 24, 2009
An unconventional love affair
Benny is a lonely farmer, living alone in his parents' house, with a small herd of cows, some sheep, and a fridge with moldy containers that have been languishing since before his mother's death. Desiree, a.k.a. Shrimp, is a widower, living in town, working as a librarian. Both are approaching middle age with a sense that they might never find another love.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
These two lonesome people meet in the unlikeliest of places - in a cemetery. Shrimp visits her husband's grave several times a week, sitting on a worn green bench. Frequently, she must share that bench with a man she calls 'Forest Owner' (so named because of a logo on his cap), a man she doesn't like. The feeling is shared as 'Forest Owner,' a.k.a. Benny, notes, "Damn and blast! I can't stand her, just can't stand the sight of her!" Who would expect that these two would soon fall in love?
Benny and Shrimp are soon passionate lovers, trying to come to grips with very different lifestyles. Shrimp lives in an extremely tidy apartment, close to work while Benny lives far removed from the bustle of town, on a smelly farm, in an unkempt house. Will their love be able to survive their differences?
Benny & Shrimp, originally published in Sweden, follows the love affair of the above-mentioned couple, from their first meeting, through early courtship, into the ups and downs of relationships. It is written in the first person, but what makes this novel unique is that that voice switches between Shrimp and Benny. Each short chapter is given to only one person's telling, recounting their various dates, sexual encounters, reactions to the others' friends, and disagreements. Many of the chapters tell of the same event, first from Shrimp's eyes, then Benny's. It is interesting to read how the same incident can be interpreted two different ways. For instance, Benny fixes up one of his rooms. He notes:
'.I took her up to the bedroom, flung open the door, and tried to sound like a trumpet fanfare.
She stared. "Oh...very nice!" was all she said.
I just stood there, crestfallen.'
In the next chapter, we read of the room cleaning from Shrimp's eyes:
'I had to fight back a violent urge to giggle when I first saw the curtains.I had absolutely no intention of expressing any opinion on his decorating tastes.'
There are similar recollections throughout the book, from the pair's first meeting to their first fight. It's certainly fun to see how differently they sometimes interpret the same event.
Benny & Shrimp starts out a bit clumsy, perhaps because the text was translated from the original Swedish. Sentences such as, "I sit here on my lunch break several times a week, and always at least once at weekends," makes the reading a bit difficult. The translation problems, fortunately, disappear fairly quickly. It also takes a while for the author to get into the meat of the story, with a plethora of chapters devoted to Shrimp's previous life with her husband as well as Benny's life prior to his parents deaths. True, it helps to understand the characters to know where they are coming from, but the author dwells on earlier events a bit too much. Fortunately, once the love affair gets hot and heavy, the book too gets steamy and fun. In the end, Benny & Shrimp is a touching story about two lost souls who find love.
Quill says: Keep reading beyond the slow beginning and you'll be rewarded by an unconventional love story.