Customer Reviews

46
3.9 out of 5 stars
It's Fine By Me: A Novel
Format: HardcoverChange
Price:$17.52 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine 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. Combined with the wrenching home scenes are poignant ones: at one point, Audun runs away and is taken in by a gentle farmer named Leif where he experiences tenderness. As readers, we know Audun can't stay there forever but it's an unsettling contrast about what could have been...and what is.

For fans of Per Petterson, it's worth mentioning that Arvid - who appears in later books - is cast here in a supporting role as Audun's one true friend. For those who enjoy intricate portraits of characters who are evolving into maturity, this is a very worthwhile read.
1111 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine 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. You are the problem no one wants to solve."

The book has some great humor in it. I loved the part about Henrik, a student who is failing at French but has a teacher that is too hard of hearing to recognize that Henrik is babbling rather than speaking French.

There is quite a bit about the political situation in Vietnam and the civil rights movement in the U.S. As Audun says, "I am not an idiot, I know about the napalm in Vietnam, I know about Wounded Knee and the Ku Klux Klan; for as long as I have lived I have seen the race riots on TV. They shot Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I have read Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice and felt the flames of his hatred. But there is something about these people. They are for real. They step out of the shadows and set out on journeys never to return."

Though non-linear, primarily devoid of action, and mostly inner-directed, this is a very interesting book. It appears to be partially auto-biographical with Arvid representing the author. I recommend this book to those who enjoy character-driven novels with frank and heavy prose. At times, there is a lightness to the writing and humor in the story, but by and large, this is a heavy novel, one that looks at the darker side of the human spirit.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon August 29, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine 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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The lean and vigorous IT'S FINE BY ME is a sensitive, perceptive, and beautifully written portrayal of a young man's coming-of-age in a working class district of Oslo, Norway during the late sixties and early seventies.

The long, masterful fingers of author Per Petterson reach into the heart and mind of his young protagonist, Audun Sletten, to part the curtains separating darkness from light to reveal the profoundest depths of ordinary human truth. He transforms situations common in experience into those richly uncommon.

Petterson's exacting prose of quiet precision has an exceptional power of evocation. His poetic realism and specificity of observed detail provide a sense of transparency and truth, enabling us to view the imagined life of Audun as clearly as we can view our own.

Petterson has taken ordinary themes of common experience and woven colorful tapestries around them. The color of yellow is a dominant thread as are gray, white, black, red...creating a Norwegian landscape that is as metaphoric as it is realistic.

Reading this book is an experience much like hitting the raw nerves of a teenager and learning the intricate truths about manhood and the painful drama of self-realization. But it is also a story about resilience and acceptance. Audun is a character easy to understand and even easier to like. His personal growth, at times soft and tender and at other times harsh and brutal, brings an adult understanding about the universal truths of life, about family and friendships, about loyalty and love, about learning and responsibility, about aspirations and dreams, about life and death.

IT'S FINE BY ME is an eloquent novel of perfect simplicity. With the immediacy of an autobiography Per Petterson has given us an intimate story that provides a real feeling for the integrity of its truth and the fluidity of its memories. While we read this book we are always in the engaging company of its extraordinary author.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
So as I get ready to go into the delivery room with my wife for the 4th time I've had a chance to read "It's Fine By Me". It's an excellent distraction with high quality writing and an interesting character driven reflective story.

Auden Sletten is a big boy. He uses his brawn and aspires to use his brain. He admires Hemingway and Jack London and quotes Anna Karenina. He's loyal to the few friends he has. He is protective and sensitive.

He's grown up with a largely abusive father and a mother who's kind but largely lost in poverty and personal misery. Within the turmoil which is gradually revealed Per Petterson creates bit of a womb around Auden. Characters flow in to his life almost like guardian angels. There is just enough empathy and care to carry him through events that may otherwise crush a young soul.

If I had not read a bit of Studs Terkel perhaps I would have been a bit more cynical about whether characters like Auden are real enough to carry a novel. One might question whether his circumstances and environment could yield a person that is not only literate but self aware, sensitive and political but it's believable to me and he is equally capable of making the bad decisions that immediately reflect his youth and immaturity. Petterson has written a story that I much enjoyed about a relatable young man that appears to be struggling on his own and yet somehow draws out of people a desire to help him (albeit briefly) on his journey to adulthood.

We know he'll pay a price for some of his mistakes but that's for another day. For now we're reading a story about an 18 year old boy somewhat flashing back to his years growing up. It's 1970. The world is about Hendrix, the Stones and Vietnam even in a somewhat unattractive industrial suburb of Oslo, Norway. He's getting to know himself just as we get to know him. I found it pleasant, warm, perhaps optimistic through a layer of gloom and a worthwhile way to spend some time before --- Oops! time to go!
44 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
At first blush, this is a heartbreaking coming-of-age novel, which takes place in a small town in Norway. When we meet Auden, he is 13. It is his first day at school and he is late. He is rude to the headmaster and then to his teacher. He is wearing sunglasses and refuses to take them off. He says he has terrible scars around his eyes. He is a loner, a bit of a fibber, and a storyteller when he wants to avoid something. He seems to always be running away from something, perhaps from himself and his thoughts. He seems like a very angry, and perhaps unhappy, young man. His glasses symbolize only one of the things he hides behind. In order to conceal who he really is, he wears odd outfits. His lies are another way of hiding. His air of bravado overshadows his fears and hides his sensitive nature. He carries himself with a chip on his shoulder, sometimes has violent outbursts and shows very little alarm when confronted. He takes orders from no one and follows his own drummer. He is definitely his own person, although in private, he is not as brash as he seems. He can be emotional, philosophical and cerebral, in spite of his, often antisocial, behavior. He entertains dreams of being a writer and loves to read, devouring books when he can, even attempting to write something beautiful himself.
At the playground, on this first day at school, he unexpectedly makes a friend, Arvid, someone who passes muster with him and who becomes a confidant. As the timeline moves around, we learn, through Auden's thoughts and memories, that his father was very abusive, a drunk and a brute. His brother has drowned in an accident and his sister has run off with her boyfriend. He and his mother live together, and he has newspaper routes to augment their income.
As the years pass, Auden's life is one of survival on a daily basis: survival at home, survival outside on the streets, survival at school, survival at work. He has a quick temper and often makes split second decisions that are not well thought out. Always, lurking in the background, there is a disaster waiting to happen, and yet, the story never seems contrived, rather it seems authentic in the realm in which it is being played out, a small, unsophisticated, perhaps a bit backward, Norwegian town, filled with poorly educated, unworldly characters, who work very hard to make ends meet, are often bullies and sometimes take the law into their own hands. It is a place where the weak sometimes prey upon the poor.
Although Petterson seems to present a simple message, using the matter-of-course occurrences of everyday life in this rural environment, his message is always profound. Often, after reading several sentences or paragraphs or pages, there is a moment of awareness and a larger message comes through to the reader. It isn't just about a boy who works to help support his mother, it is about a boy who does many things to try and discover who he is, what his purpose in life will be and how will he attain it. It is about the characters' philosophy of acceptance about what befalls them, as in the title, all things are fine with them, they believe that things will work out, in the end.
Auden manages to bear all of the crises he has to face, and he bears them well. The reader is always wondering how he will deal with what comes his way, but he faces his ordeals and his pain like a champion. Petterson turns the events of a simple, ordinary day into a magical moment, worthy of further thought, and he makes painful events easier to bear and understand, simply with his writing style which is so easy and comfortable to read. In conclusion, this is a novel of hope as well as despair. The writer leaves the door open for both.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was totally enthralled by Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, so I was happy to see this title of his become available in English.

In this story of a disaffected Norwegian teen boy living in Oslo, you can recognize all the hallmarks of Petterson's writing. He makes Norway come alive to those of us who have never been there. The forest again plays a big part in the novel's framework. Even with a story set in the city, the author allows the natural world to exert a pull on his characters. Time is not a linear concept -- the narrative jumps back and forth in time.

Although the back cover copy makes it sound like the book is about a Petterson character who shows up in his other novels (Arvid), it is really about (and in the point of view of) Audun Sletten. He is a sullen, combative teen whose character was shaped by his hellish life with a drunken father. He hides behind sunglasses and eats alive anyone who asks him a personal question. He seems hell bent on self-destruction.

I stayed with the book for about a hundred pages, but then Audun just started to get on my nerves. He's not the kind of person I'd want to spend even a minute with in reality, so staying with him for an entire novel just wasn't appealing, even though I did finish.

All in all, the book seemed a tone poem of sorts. The writing is compelling and the scene setting meticulously done. But story lines arise and then just peter out. Why all the buildup about Audun seeing his father on a city street one day? Nothing is made of that. Why start the reader wondering whether his sister's boyfriend is an abuser? Nothing comes of that either. Where did Signe go? And what are we to make of Egil? Why all the negativity about him? Is the author trying to say he deserved his fate?

I would suggest a reader coming to Per Petterson for the first time might want to start with Out Stealing Horses or To Siberia.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 29, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses is close to a masterpiece, in my opinion, which makes any book he's written of immediate interest. It also sets the bar extremely high. It's Fine by Me, which predates Out Stealing Horses, is not quite of the same caliber, but it is nonetheless a masterfully written story about a young man on a voyage of self-discovery, and as always, every line of Petterson's spare, elegant prose rings true. If you like small, slice-of-life stories, I highly recommend it.

Audun Sletten is an adolescent from a seriously dysfunctional family. His father is violent and abusive and has drifted in and out of his life. His mother struggles to keep the family together and safe, with mixed results. His younger brother, Egil, died when a joyride ended under water. His older sister, Kari, has moved in with a boyfriend about whom Audun has grave doubts. Audun himself wants to be a writer, but is still in school and questioning its value.

The book, narrated by Audun himself and set mainly in 1970 or thereabouts, spans his life from age 13, when he's the new kid at school, through 18, when he's working in a printing plant. It's not a splashy novel--it's very much reminiscent of what it's like to be a teenager, with doubts, fears and small misadventures--but the characters are well-drawn true to life. Because it's such a slim book, it doesn't require a major investment of time, but Audun is an immensely appealing character, and it's rewarding as the best literary fiction can be.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
When you read a Per Petterson book it is like standing in the shadows and watching a character develop until it is like knowing yourself. This is not an action story, it doesn't have a huge plot that builds and explodes at the end. It is a story of a young man becoming a man, he struggles with memories of a now absent abusive father, the loss of a brother, a new school, finances. It is 1970, the Vietnam war, the Stones, Hendrix and political unrest. Sometimes the land is a cold and dark as the strggles the boy deals with and yet often times the land and the boy blend well. Petterson writes lyrical, for example "You're eighteen years old. It's a tricky time. There's so much going on, and later some say it was the best time they ever had, and some say it was the worst, and they're both right."
If for no other reason reading this book is worth reading because it is beautifully written.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"It's Fine by Me" by Per Petterson is one of those sad coming-of-age books that makes one appreciate the subtle things in life. The first-person narrative covers five years of the life of Auden Sletten, who spends his teen years missing his deceased brother and fearing his alcoholic father.

The story starts out with Auden starting a new school. He arrives late, soaking from a downpour, and refuses to take off his dark glasses. "I have scars" he says in self-defense, and those scars run deep. He keeps secrets from others and hides behind both physical and emotional barriers. His reasons for doing so are slowly revealed as the narrative grows.

Auden remains an outcast with just one good friend in Arvid, although he does spend time with coworkers and classmates as the story switches back and forth in time. This may be confusing to some readers, but appears to be a popular style in western European literature.

The story itself doesn't have much of a plot, although the premise is revealed toward the end. Auden is a drifter in thought. There is much description of his surroundings: the lush, cold forest, the damp Olso streets, the many drunken passers-by. Auden loves the music of the times, musicians of the 1970s that include the Beatles, The Stones, Jimi Hendrix and quotes from Hemingway and London. He likes Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and seems like an overall artistic, introverted man lost in his way. He makes money on the side working in a newspaper's printing room, where one false move can cut off your fingers. Auden takes it all in stride as if he's waiting for that right moment in life to finally move on and out on his own, both emotionally and physically.

The translation by Don Bartlett is good, the pace is good and the reading easy to follow. This isn't always easy to do with this reflective writing style.

This is a quick, easy read but it may leave you a tad sad in the end. I enjoyed this for its feel of a foreign novel set somewhere outside the US. Despite the setting, the feelings are raw human and are understood the world over.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
I Curse the River of Time: A Novel
I Curse the River of Time: A Novel by Per Petterson (Paperback - August 2, 2011)
$10.79

To Siberia
To Siberia by Per Petterson (Paperback - September 1, 2009)
$12.33

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel
Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Per Petterson (Paperback - April 29, 2008)
$11.27
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.