Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Benny and Shrimp - an unusual love story
Swedish literature is making a big splash these days. Stieg Larson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire” has been a big sensation, while a quiet little love story, “Benny and Shrimp” has also taken the literary world by storm.
Katarina Mazetti’s short novel about two misfits who find a modicum of love in the strangest of places is a fascinating look at romance in a different culture.
Benny is a dairy farmer who has recently lost his mother. A good son, he faithfully tends her grave, decorating it with plants. There is a bench nearby where he likes to stop and spend some time alone, pondering his lonely life. One day, a woman is there at his bench, visiting the grave next to his mother’s. At first irritated by the intrusion, Benny soon becomes fascinated by the pale young woman in beige. He wonders if she is as lost as he is.
Desiree has been a widow for a short while, and finds a certain amount of comfort visiting her late husband’s grave. But she is also angry with him for dying on her and leaving her alone. Sure she has her job as librarian to keep her occupied, but she longs for companionship as well. Lately she has been seeing a strange fellow tending the grave next to her husband’s and is fascinated by his faithfulness to the task.
One day the two dare to speak to each other, and this sets the odd couple on a journey of discovery and, eventually, romance. There could be no two different people than Benny and Shrimp (as Benny soon nicknames Desiree because of her short stature). She is cultured, educated, and loves her clean, orderly life in the city. He is content to be with his cows, tending to the farm, and cleanliness never really crosses his mind much. But there is a spark that ignites between the two, and they must learn to make compromises in order to make their relationship work.
“Benny and Shrimp” is a unique and utterly fascinating view of romance through thoroughly Swedish eyes. Author Katarina Mazetti’s work, translated into English by Sarah Death, comes through as delightfully irrepressible to the predicament her characters find themselves in (and of their own making, I might add) and with a touch of irreverence to the plight of love-lorn. I was also tickled at how important the matter of making meatballs played into the story. The ending does leave readers hanging a bit, but Mazetti writes of a sequel to the story of Benny and Shrimp, and I hope it is translated for English readers soon. This novel is an absolute treat to read.
Thank you to Miss Reagan over at Miss Remmers' Review (http://reagan-review.blogspot.com) for sending me this copy!