Part of Petterson’s backlist (which is being published in English following the breakout success of Out Stealing Horses), this spare but memorable novel features Arvid Jansen, the protagonist of I Curse the River of Time, as the only friend of Audun Sletten, a young man whose reticence conceals a wellspring of feeling. Not a lot happens in the novel: a teenage Audun moves to Oslo and a new school; allows himself to be befriended by Arvid; reads Hemingway and dreams of becoming a writer; remembers his dead brother, Egil, and his cruel father; and tries to take care of those he loves—his mother, his sister, and his friend—without showing too much emotion. Fans of Petterson will recognize his confident prose, as well as his concern with solitude and the essential privacy of experience, but one need not be familiar with the author’s oeuvre to appreciate his precise storytelling. Petterson’s achievement in this work lies in conveying the passionate alienation of a young man caught between a childish need for protection and a powerful desire to protect. Rights director: Jane Kirby, Random House. (Oct. 2)
“It's Fine By Me . . . convey[s] those ordinary experiences close to Petterson's heart: the pleasure, for example, in the midst of domestic strife, of slowly and very carefully rolling a good cigarette, brewing the perfect coffee and settling down on the sofa with a fine book, like this one.” The Guardian
“It's Fine By Me is many things--an engaging coming-of-age tale, a writer's halting journey and a story of family drama and the inevitable stages of grief. With Audun Sletten Petterson has created a hero with gutsy resilience and a nose for the truth of things. You'd like to meet him on a street in your own home town.” The Scotsman
Protected by his sunglasses and exuding the poignant, false bravado that only a 13-year-old boy can muster, Auden Sletten ambles into his new classroom and right into readers' hearts in this new release of Petterson's (Out Stealing Horses) 1992 coming-of-age novel. Since the death of his older brother, Auden is burdened by his role as protector of his mother and sister, with whom he moved to Oslo to escape an abusive dad. A loner, happiest with a book, a cigarette, and a cloudy day, Auden attracts the attention of Arvid Jansen, whom readers met as an adult in I Curse the River of Time. Together they navigate the shoals of young adulthood, cavalierly expounding on books, music, and politics with the confidence of the young. Though his goal is to be a writer, Auden quits school for a job in a paper factory where he becomes immersed in the harsh realities of the working poor, a recurring Petterson theme. VERDICT With biting humor and sharp, Hemingway-like prose, this bildungsroman offers more light and hope than later Petterson novels, perhaps reflecting the author's younger, more idealistic self. Perfect for YA crossover or an intergenerational book discussion.—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL
Coming-of-age in 1960s Norway; the fifth novel from the Norwegian native, best known for Out Stealing Horses (2007). It's his first day at a new school in Oslo. He's late. He's wearing sunglasses. He refuses the headmaster's order to remove them. He won't tell his fellow students where he's from. The message is clear: Don't bother me. This is Audun Sletten, the 13-year-old narrator, in 1965. Why the hard shell, the truculence? His father is an abusive alcoholic. When he fired a gun through the kitchen window, it was the last straw for his mother, who moved them out. We do return to 1965, but most of the action takes place in 1970. Audun is now a high school senior; he has an early-morning paper route and is always tired in school. He is proud of his working-class identity. He is deeply influenced by American culture, loves Jimi Hendrix and Jack London, but is adamant the Americans leave Vietnam. Fiercely self-reliant, he stays clear of organizations after having been expelled from the Boy Scouts. We have met Audun before, in different settings; he's the alienated young Westerner, and Petterson hasn't done enough to individuate him. He's always fighting; he drops out of school to work at a printing press, but gets into fights while still a trainee. One respite from the violence came in 1965, when Audun was sheltered by a farmer and his wife; in the novel's best scenes, the boy luxuriates in the idyllic calm and the wife's maternal attention. We could have used more such contrasts with the monotonous flurry of fists and at least the suggestion of a romantic life. As it is, it's his undercharacterized mother who finds a new partner, in a crowded ending that includes the discovery of a dead body. Will Audun ever break free of his father's legacy? Petterson leaves that key question hanging and the reader unsatisfied.