It’s the next issue of SCAN’s book club, and this time we decided we needed a light-hearted break from all the coursework and life in general. How to Fall In Love with a Man Who Lives in a Bush is a quirky Scandinavian debut novel by Emmy Abrahamson, filled with cynicism and comedy, it was a big hit among our readers…
‘Big fan right here. This is one of the only books I’ve ever read where I can truthfully say it had me interested from the first line. The humour is crude, ridiculous and over the top, but somehow it works. This is the second time in a few months that a slice-of-life novel has had me has had me so engaged, which is saying something.
I liked Julia’s characterisation; despite being the centre of most of the book’s extravagant humour, she remained both human and relatable. I’m certain anyone who’s worked as any kind of teacher will sympathise with her silent hatred of her students; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been angry at an author for writing story before I did. I really feel her pain on that front.
Humour aside, I thought the narrative itself was pretty strong. A bit caricature at times maybe, but then again so is the whole book, and I never found it particularly unenjoyable. I will say that some of the events towards the end of the book were predictable, and the romance between the two protagonists kicked off remarkably quickly, but these are relatively minor complaints.
One thing I will say is that Julia is very quick to express her dislike of almost everyone except Ben; not that her work ‘friends’ seem all that likeable for the most part, but sometimes it feels like Julia and Ben are the only people who are anything other than an annoyance. I get that this is a fictionalised autobiography, but it’s easy to forget that with how little we see outside of the protagonists.
Having said that Abrahamson does start to make up for that in the latter stages of the novel. Through events that I won’t spoil, Julia ends up coming into contact with several characters that only appear for a page or two, but are equally as interesting as the ones who have been set up as regulars in her life for the past ten chapters or so. I get that this is to represent the effect that Ben has had on Julia’s life, but that doesn’t mean that the people she knew before Ben are completely two-dimensional.
Despite these complaints, I still think that Abrahamson’s novel is worth giving a try; even with my quibbles it kept me engaged and laughing from start to finish.’
‘I devoured this book.
I can’t remember a time when I have dedicated a few hours of my night (and early morning) to reading a book. The danger in reading it all in one night is that the characters blur together. Luckily, Julia (the protagonist) and Ben (her love interest) are two dimensional.
My intrigue for How to Fall in Love with a Man Who Lives in a Bush lies in the fact that Emmy Abrahamson creates a niche in the romantic fiction genre. Bored and disillusioned by her job teaching English to Vienna’s housewives, Julia wanders the streets and happens to sit down on a bench a few feet away from Ben’s home.
Because Julia is in a park, and Ben lives in a bush.
Ben woos Julia, bare feet and all, so much, so they agree to meet the following week. The mind boggles as Julia is quick to welcome Ben into her life, and into her bed. I wondered, much like Julia’s frenemy Lenore, whether her relationship with Ben represents a mid-life crisis.
Ben reinvigorates Julia, who is happier despite being embarrassed by Ben’s homeless status, lack of job, and education. An argument over who is paying for the next drink at the Christmas Market is indicative of the class difference in their relationship, a motif which ripples throughout the text. Abraham’s novel is not literary and does not reveal some slither of truth about the meaning of life, but it is definitely a page-turner, and worth losing the early hours of your morning to.’
– Lexi Burgess
‘I’ll be honest; this isn’t the kind of fiction I usually go for but, I have to say Abrahamson’s novel did not disappoint. Abrahamson has a very witty style partnered with an ability to paint real life.
In particular, I found her heroine Julia to be very likeable and her beginning situation being stuck in a mundane job is something we can be sympathetic with as readers.
One of the main features, and winning feature for that matter, is the comic style of the text. The opening line of the blurb alone is worth a few laughs: ‘Love stinks. Or maybe it just needs a
shower’. Initially, it just seems like a bit of light-hearted humour, but her wit seems to have a much darker, underlying commentary to it.
Her relationship with Ben was interesting, as it played around with power and status in both gender and economic relations. It’s curious to see what happens when the woman has the economic dominance over the man, or what happens when two competing forces of spontaneity and control come head to head. Julie and Ben don’t seem to make the most conventionally successful couple, and the text indeed centres on some of these struggles.
The novel also focuses a lot on literature and the processes of writing. How difficult can it be to come up with an original story? Quite hard, it seems, as all the good storylines have been taken. Or so Abrahamson appears to think, she seems to have done an excellent job in this case. This is a great light-hearted read, a short break to take your mind off work as a reminder that real life can be exciting too.’
– Ruth Walbank