Tag Archives: Swedish

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide




Pages:  208

Published (in Sweden):  September 22, 2011

Expected Publication (in USA):  July 12, 2016


This novel brought to mind The Stranger by Albert Camus, a novel I read back in high school, due to the absurdity of the premise and the situation of the protagonist.  The Invoice is not nearly as dark and in fact this novel has everything to do with happiness.   The protagonist is a 39-year-old single male living in Sweden who works part-time in a video store.  His only friend, Roger, seems to be pretty miserable.  He has a sister who seems overrun with her family life.  His parents are deceased.  Yet, he receives an invoice stating he owes a ridiculous sum of money for his assessed happiness.  Through his investigations into the reasons why he owes so much money which is primarily through the woman he reaches at the call-in center, Maud, it is revealed that calculations were mistaken and the amount he owes keeps increasing.  It seems incredible to him that he could owe so much working a dead-end job, having very little actual life experience, and no money to speak of.  In the end, he realizes just how lucky he his that he is able to experience happiness with the simple things in life where others do not.  He ultimately finds that the ridiculous sum of money they wanted to charge him does not come close to the amount he should owe for all of the happiness he has in his life. I enjoyed this philosophical, satirical novel that seems light-hearted and deep both at once.  It is a novel that makes you think about happiness, the roots of happiness, what it means to be surrounded by people who are truly happy and to be truly happy yourself.  I give this novel images-2 and recommend it to everyone.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Why do you think the protagonist is so happy?
  2. Do you think we could ever truly quantify a person’s happiness?
  3. Compare and contrast Roger and the protagonist’s perceptions of similar events.
  4. Explain the importance of the scene in The Bridge to this novel.
  5. Why do you think Maud spends so much time speaking with our protagonist on the phone?
  6. What do you think are the strongest components or personality traits to being a happy person?
  7. Do you feel happier when you are around happy people?
  8. In what ways is this novel a commentary on governmental regulation?


Review of “The Invoice” in the Independent

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide


Published: June 16, 2015 (in English)

First Published in Swedish:  Sept. 4, 2013

Pages: 372

Format:  E-book


Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero.  That’s just how it is.  For Elsa, her grandmother is her superhero, however as the book progresses Elsa begins to notices superpowers in all those close to her.   This book has a childlike honesty and curiosity to it.  It is told from Elsa’s 7 year old perspective.  There is much humor and sweetness to this book.

It is a heartwarming quirky tale that begins with the relationship between a grandmother and her 7 year old granddaughter.  Granny is eccentric and will do anything to protect and guide Elsa through life.  The 7 year old Elsa is a wise-for-her-age little girl who comes across as “different” from her peers and is the subject of bullying at school.  Her best and only friend is her grandmother.  The grandmother goes to great lengths to distract Elsa from her rough days, including a scene where Elsa and her grandmother sneak into the zoo late at night and when the police arrive, Granny proceeds to throw animal poop at them.

After Elsa’s parents divorce, Granny weaves a series of fantastical fairy tales that take place in a world that Elsa thinks only she and her grandmother know about, the “Land-of -almost-awake.”  The grandmother also teaches her a secret language so they can speak to each other without others knowing what they are saying.

Elsa is not told by the grandmother that she is dying until just before her death at which point she is sent on a mysterious mission whereby she must deliver a series of letters.  Through this process of letter delivering Elsa develops a better sense of who her grandmother was, her grandmother’s relationship with her mother, as well as understands the relationships of those living in the building with her.  These people in her building become sort of an extended family for Elsa.

This fantastical world that Granny tells to Elsa serves as a framework for the Elsa to understand the relationship between all of those around her.  She realizes that these fantastical stories are actually true stories about those around her, and seemingly becomes wiser and more grown up as she understands this.  She appreciates the people around her better, their relationships to each other, and feels more connected to them.

While reading the book, I wondered at the seemingly random titles given to each chapter, but they came together perfectly in the last paragraph of the book.

While the book was originally written in Swedish, it really could have taken place anywhere.  There are a few Swedish cultural references, such as Daim chocolate bars.

images-3map of Sweden

elsa    apartment building layout

I really liked this book.  images-2  It was sweet, endearing, humorous, quirky, lovable.  I was thinking while reading that it would make for very good young adult reading.

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Two other covers.  I find it interesting that another English version (published in Australia) has a different title.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What do you think made Elsa different?
  2. Why do you think the grandmother stopped working when Elsa was born?
  3. Why don’t you think Elsa was ever told directly of the grandmother’s connection to all of the people in the building?
  4. Do you think Britt Marie was changed by her bad marriage?  How do you think leaving the marriage will affect her?  Fredrik Backman has published a novel about Britt Marie in Swedish, that has not yet come out in English.  What do you suppose Britt Marie’s future adventures will entail?
  5. If you read, A Man Called Ove, how does this compare?
  6. If Elsa were describing you as a character in this book, what superpower would she ascribe to you?
  7. What country or countries do you suppose these refugees living in the building are from?

Reading Group Guide from Simon & Schuster

Review by fellow blogger BookNAround