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on June 20, 2014
Honestly, I wasn't even going to bother to review this one because, well, I'm still not entirely sure what I thought of it. It is a very quirky (at least by American standards) book, which is a good thing. I mean, it is definitely unlike other books out there.

I will say, first off, that the "official" summary is misleading. Based on that, I was going in to this book thinking I would be reading about people far older than the characters actually were. Perhaps it is just me, but I do not consider early- to mid-thirties to be middle aged.

Okay, that being said, I will say that there are a lot of positive things about this book. It is a lighter read, if that is something you are looking for. It is also quite well-written and/or translated from Swedish. There are a lot of little phrases that are interesting--they are probably quite common in Sweden, but were unfamiliar to me. However, I thought that just added to the feel of the book.

Benny and Desiree/Shrimp are both very realistic characters--which means that they aren't always likable and, frankly, there were several times when I wanted to knock some sense into one or both of them. I don't feel I can really fault Mazetti for that--after all, that is what a good writer strives to do.

Yes, the book was incredibly quirky--in fact, it might be too quirky for some readers. Ultimately, though, I enjoyed the experience of reading this book, even if it left me scratching my head sometimes.
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on August 11, 2009
An Amazon review of this book captured my attention, although sentimental romance is not my favorite genre. Plus, I have some interest in Sweden, the setting.

It's the story of two people in their thirties who visit the graves of loved ones. Desiree visits the grave of her husband who recently died, and Benny visits his parents' graves. Benny's parents are right next to Desiree's late husband. Benny and Desiree encounter each other as they enter and leave the cemetery; and, on occasion, they share a little bench near the graves.

Well, I found all of this to be a bit weird. I haven't spent much time in cemeteries, but during my scattered visits I have never encountered any strangers. I have never seen any kind of bench where people can sit. Maybe it's a Swedish thing.

Anyway, Benny and Desiree end up having an affair. The whole point is that they have this passionate affair although they have startlingly different personalities. Benny is a hardworking, rugged dairy farmer who lives alone and struggles to keep the family farm in operation in the face of declining revenues and mounting costs. He's a somewhat laconic, blunt man who's more than a little rough around the edges. His is a rather slovenly bachelor's life. He has little interest in housekeeping and his house shows it. He's not well read, although he is quite perceptive and was a good student in high school. He has little poetic sensitivity.

Desiree is a librarian in a small town near Benny's farm. She lives in a stark, sterile apartment. She's rather small and pale. (Benny nicknames her "Shrimp.") She's delicate and likes things neat and organized. She likes to talk. She reads a lot. She particularly enjoys poetry and opera. In short, she and Benny have precious little in common, other than a compelling loneliness.

Author Katarina Mazetti has Benny and "Shrimp" describe the affair in alternating chapters. The big question becomes: Although opposites may attract, can they bond?

It flows well. Only a little seems to have been lost in the Swedish-to-English translation.

All in all, I found it to be far more "cute" than profound. Whenever the passion fades, Benny and Shrimp spend a lot of time bickering. Mazetti has them analyze each other when they are apart in a way that I found empty and somewhat irritating.

But I suspect that if you find yourself alone on a cold and snowy Swedish night this book would be a comforting companion.
One person found this helpful
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on June 17, 2013
Let me preface this review by saying that I'm a huge fan of Benny and Shrimp in it's original Swedish (Grabben i graven bredvid), and an equally huge fan of the Swedish movie it inspired.

I bought this book for an american friend of mine, and was curious how it survived a translation to english. Upon re-reading it in English I found an unbelievably leaden translation that often misses the point and is frequently completely undescipherable. There seems to be a misconception that it is a straight forward dramatic book, or a romance novel. The original is a brilliant, multilayered and more importantly hilarious account of these two persons story, with language so nuanced and snappy you fly through the pages. Mazettis near genious depiction of female and male logic contrasted in alternating chapters is one of the most entertaining things I've ever read.
The english translation has shed a dimension, or two. There are frequent literal translations that make no sense, at the complete expense of the story.

I've often wondered why an English speaking version of the movie hasn't been made. I now have my answer; if a producer read this book they wouldn't see any merit in the story.

In case you're wondering: I'm probably one of very few people reading this book who is completely bilingual. I spent the 1st half of my life in Sweden in an english-swedish family, and have spent 2nd half in England and the US.

It's a real shame that english speaking readers won't get to enjoy this wonderful book.
2 people found this helpful
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on October 7, 2015
It's difficult to fully speak to the quality of this book since I have no way of knowing what was lost in it's translation into English. I liked it. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it was a more realistic romance than the people that meet, fall in love, and marry seemingly instantaneously. Anyone who has ever dated as an adult will recognize pieces of the story. How much do I want to change? How much, if at all, can I expect someone else to change to be with me? It wasn't all puppies and roses, and that's refreshing.
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on April 24, 2016
This e-book version is faulty.
The last chapter is missing and replaced by the previous one.
I would like to know if it would be possible to have my money back.
Benny and Shrimp
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on May 16, 2015
It is not easy to come up with such a credible dichotomy of life styles, and then weave in the passion of romance to resolve with a hopeful yet ambiguous ending.
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on September 11, 2009
I quite enjoyed this book. It was nice to read a story about love that wasn't wrapped in in superficiality. The book was about two ordinary people and how they navigate the rocky road that is love.
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on September 23, 2009
The book is a fast read and holds the reader's attention. It's not an especially "true to life" story, but does have entertaining elements. Hard to imagine one's self in the heroine role.
One person found this helpful
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on September 10, 2009
I did not read this book. I simply ordered it at my mother's request.
The book arrived promptly and in good condition. My mother seemed to like it.
Beyond this, I can say nothing.
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I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the book. I found it nice and light at the beginning (I found myself smiling many times throughout - a sweet smile, not a funny smile.), but it got steadily deeper and rather darker. It's a very unusual romance, if you can even call it that. The characters were likable overall. This is a translation as well, and it really rather read like one, but not in a bad way.

I also have seriously never read the word "ovaries" so many times in one book outside of a biology text!! There were jumping ovaries and yearning ovaries and such. They were very energetic ovaries and they seemed to be prominently featured in every chapter.

This was an interesting, and very real, story but it left me vaguely unsatisfied - like when you can't quite get the price sticker goo off of a picture frame's glass. It was certainly worth reading, and was really quite a quick read. It's the perfect read if you're looking for something a bit more on the intellectual, reality based romance side.
17 people found this helpful
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