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It's Fine By Me: A Novel Hardcover – October 2, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As the new boy in high school, Audun refuses to remove his dark glasses (“I liked the distance they created”), and his wry, melancholy first-person, present-tense narrative nails how the teen’s defiance hides his fragility. Expelled from Boy Scouts, he knows he will never again join an organized group. Haunted by the death of his brother, Ergel, in a car accident, Audun remembers Ergel as “a pain in the ass,” never mind the priest’s “sentimental waffle” at the funeral. Like Petterson’s award-winning Out Stealing Horses (2007), featuring Audun’s friend Arvid, this story is as much about what is not spoken as it is about the angry daily detail (“It’s funny the things you don’t forget”). Much of the focus is on work, as Audun gets up early to run a paper route, then later quits school for a job in a printing press, until he is fired and cannot go home. The casual comments intensify the heartbreak: Why did his father leave? The spaces make the answers (or lack of them) universal. --Hazel Rochman

Review

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; Reprint edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555976263
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976262
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #973,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PER PETTERSON won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for the novel Out Stealing Horses, which has been translated into more than thirty languages and was named a Best Book of 2007 by The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. Before publishing his first book, Petterson worked as a bookseller in Norway.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you use Ernest Hemingway's criteria - "all you have to do is write one true sentence" Per Petterson is profoundly gifted. I've marveled at the authenticity of his other books, particularly Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia. This one is newly translated and actually precedes the others; it was written in 1992.

It's a melancholy coming of age story and it helps to know that two years before he wrote it, Petterson's parents and brother were killed in a Norwegian ferry tragedy. Likely, the author is channeling the sadness and alienation and he does it very well.

As in other Petterson books, the story runs forward and back in time. We meet the 13-year-old narrator Audun Stetten on his first day in a new school. Despite the headmaster's urging, he refuses to remove his sunglasses, claiming he does not want to show his scars. In that one simple scene, the reader learns a lot about Audun: that he is self-protective and secretive and that he may carry scars that make it impossible for him to reveal himself to others. Put another way, he's sort of a "shady character."

Nothing all that much happens; this is not a book for fans of linear plots and action stories. Instead, it's a deep look into the mind and heart of a boy growing up in Norway and as in previous books, the cold and sometimes unforgiving landscape is very much part of the story.

The writing style goes from sparse to lyrical and back again as the story runs through some familiar Petterson themes: the yearning and rejection of connection, the need to make it on one's own terms, the tough emotional road to growing up. Behind it all is the terror of an abusive father and the true scars that abuse leaves behind.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The setting of this novel is working class Oslo, Norway and the story, in its broad description is a coming-of-age tale of two boys, Audun and Arvid, who meet on Audun's first day of school. Audun has a tough persona, one he may not even be totally aware of cultivating. On the very first day of school he refuses to take off his sun glasses, telling the principal that he has scars around his eyes.

The book opens in 1965 and is primarily about the years of 1965 through 1970, though not in sequential order. The boys like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin. They have the names of their favorite rock stars engraved on their boots. Audun is a loner and befriending Arvid is a big change in his life.

Audun comes from a very violent and dysfunctional family. His younger brother drowned two years ago when the car he was driving drove into the water. Audun's mother has recently left their alcoholic father who has been cruel and violent to everyone in the family. She now has a friend who comes over on Sundays to listen to opera with her. Audun's sister is involved with an abusive boyfriend.

This is not a book where a lot happens externally. It is a series of thoughts, feelings and inner experiences. Both of the boys read a lot and are interested in the socialist movement of the time. Ironically, Audun wants to be a writer while he is also contemplating dropping out of school. He loves Hemingway, Tolstoy, Gorky and Jack London. As he argues to himself, not all of them finished school.

The writing is poetic and strong. Speaking tangentially about his father Audun says, "If you're an alcoholic you're out of control. If you have no control, you are finished. Then you spend the rest of your days walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Someone Else TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What was it like to be a teenager in Oslo in 1970? For Audun Sletten, it's not a particularly pleasant life. He's a sullen young man, prone to drunkenness and apathy, and already quite defeated for one so young. We learn some of what made him that way as he alternates between present and past tense, telling stories from his 13th year in 1965 and his 18th year in 1970.

I have very much enjoyed some of Per Petterson's other novels, but I had to force myself to finish this one. The prose is up to Petterson's usual standards and the translation is excellent, but IT'S FINE BY ME is essentially plotless. The 1970 Audun drinks a lot, gets in fights, wanders the city aimlessly, and plays at radical politics. He goes to school, then drops out to take a dead-end job where he can't seem to stay out of trouble. He grieves for a lost brother, and lives in fear of the return of his abusive, alcoholic father. Audun's stories from 1965 give us more insight into the family dynamics that made him the way he is. I enjoyed the stories from his younger self a little more because he hadn't yet given up on the world and himself. He was still participating and trying to enjoy life.

If you've read IN THE WAKE and I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME, you'll enjoy seeing Arvid Jansen as a youngster in this book. He's Audun's only friend, and he was the one bright spot in the story for me. Arvid sees Audun for what he truly is. He tells him, "Do you know something, Audun. Nothing's fine by you. Absolutely nothing." And he's right. We can only hope Audun will overcome some of his anger and stop keeping the world at bay. Otherwise he's doomed to remain miserable and directionless.

Those with a low tolerance for foul language may want to steer clear of this novel. The cursing is not excessive, but it's realistically regular throughout the book.
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