Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti
|Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: How difficult can it be for a man and a woman whose biological clocks are ticking and who can't resist each other to form a relationship? Read this excellent translation from the original Swedish and you'll find out. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: March 2008|
|Publisher: Short Books, London|
Benny is a dairy farmer. It's not long since his mother died leaving him alone in the farmhouse and struggling to cope with twenty four cows and followers. The house has steadily deteriorated but he still has his mother's embroidered pictures on the walls and all the old, rather stuffy furniture. He makes time to visit his parents' grave regularly and it's there that he meets Shrimp…
Well, her name isn't really Shrimp, but that's what Benny calls her because she's all beige and curled in on herself. Her real name is Desirée Wallin and she's a librarian. She's visiting her husband's grave. He was cycling one morning when he was killed by a lorry. Orjan's grave is the very opposite of Benny's parent's – it's simple, uncomplicated and tasteful. And Shrimp's apartment is stark, minimalist and as welcoming as a dentist's waiting room. One day Shrimp smiles at Benny and he's smitten – and she's decidedly interested after five month's of celibacy.
I knew I was going to love this book by the second page. Shrimp missed Orjan and all their routines, but it was his presence she missed, his being there, rather than the man himself. She feels she ought to grieve, but is aware she isn't doing it properly and it's upsetting her. I'd feel better if I could feel worse, you might say. In those few words I understood her completely - and her biological clock was ticking loudly enough to keep the neighbours awake.
Benny's clock's ticking too. He really doesn't want to become a crusty old bachelor with everyone in the village feeling sorry for him. But when you're a dairy farmer with cows needing milking regularly, how do you get to meet marriageable women? When he and Shrimp finally get to know each other it seems as though it might be the answer to their prayers. They can't resist each other, the sex is brilliant (well, it is for them – it sounded a bit contrived to me but then I'm picky about written sex) so everything should be great, shouldn't it? Shouldn't it?
Well, no, it isn't. You see, Benny wants a wife who'll help around the farm and cook meals. He'd be a good husband, but his life is on the farm. And Shrimp? Well, Shrimp's a librarian and doing well in her job. She doesn't want to give all that up to move in with the embroidered wall hangings and need to make meatballs on a regular basis. She'd like Benny to sell the farm and get a job nearer to town. So how's it going to work out?
Well, it works out rather surprisingly and the working out is a splendid story. It couldn't be set anywhere else but Sweden, with its social values and the characters are well drawn and three-dimensional. The chapters alternate between Benny and Shrimp as they tell their stories and I found my sympathies swaying back and forth.
The translation from Swedish is by Sarah Death and whilst I'm not qualified to comment on how it compares to the original she's produced a very readable and flowing text.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies.
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