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It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson
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It's Fine By Me (1992)

by Per Petterson

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1461381,994 (3.78)4
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  1. 10
    Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe (browner56)
    browner56: Superbly written character studies of two working class young men who experience the alienation and anger that come with growing up.
  2. 00
    Beatles by Lars Saabye Christensen (rrmmff2000)
    rrmmff2000: Both tremendously evokative accounts of working class boys growing up in Vietnam era Oslo.
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English (10)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
As is true of most of Petterson’s novels, not a lot happens on the surface – it’s the inner life of his characters that provides depth. In this back catalogue release, we meet Audun Sletten, a troubled teenager who determinedly keeps his distance from the world and from his troubled family. His only confidant is his friend Arvid Jansen whom readers will remember from I Curse the River of Time. A thoughtful and rewarding novel from multi prize winning Norwegian novelist Per Petterson.
  vplprl | Nov 15, 2013 |
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. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jun 2, 2013 |
I received this book as a Goodreads ARC giveaway. This was a great book and I really enjoy it ( )
  slvoight | Mar 31, 2013 |
At the age of thirteen Audun moves with his family, but without his father, to a working class area on the east of Oslo. Audun is self assured but reserved, and already had determined how he will conduct himself inn his new home. Almost despite himself he strikes up a close friendship with fellow schoolboy and near neighbour, Arvid, a friendship that will see him through the rest of his schooling.

The novel follows Audun to his nineteenth year, by which time just he lives with his mother, while the shadow of his father still lurks somewhere. Both Audun and Arvid are independent thinkers, and neither is the sort to take the course of inaction, so it is not surprising they get in the odd scrape. But is is clear that while he rubs many up the wrong way, Audun endears himself to some of his neighbours as well of some of the those with whom he works - as no doubt he will to the reader.

It's Fine By Me is a relatively short read, but far from short in content and impact. Characters are well drawn and convincing, and it is this that really makes if it so fully engaging. ( )
  presto | Feb 7, 2013 |
Audun Sletten is an angry young man. He has just buried his younger brother and his abusive, drunken father has abandoned the family, which forces him to work in menial jobs at far too young of an age. He is also considering dropping out of school and is becoming increasingly alienated from most of his friends and associates. He has very little in life and sees very little chance to improve his lot in the future. Indeed, as the protagonist in Per Petterson’s superb character study It’s Fine By Me, Audun’s sole dream is to become a writer capable of producing “the one perfect sentence” that Hemingway spoke of.

Whether he ever reaches that goal is something the reader never learns—the events described in the story move between Audun’s experiences at 13 and 18 years of age—but that hardly matters. Petterson’s spare and powerful prose paints an enormously compelling portrait of disaffected working class youth, very much in the tradition of the great British novels exploring the same theme. (In fact, Petterson tips his hat to that lineage with a specific reference to Alan Sillitoe’s wonderful Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.) In particular, the author has managed to create a character about whom we come to care deeply, even if we never quite learn to like him. Above all else, though, this surely qualifies as the most ironically titled book in recent memory: given the way his life has gone so far, absolutely nothing is fine with Audun. ( )
  browner56 | Feb 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Petterson's beautifully spare prose subtly captures the effort that comes with this seeming inaction, this lack of fight, providing us with a lens through which we come to see Audun's grim inertia as a paralysing struggle to forget the past and get on with the task of living.
added by ozzer | editThe Guardian, Kristen Treen (Dec 1, 2012)
 
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I was thirteen years old and about to start the seventh class at Veitvet School.
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On his first day of school, a teacher welcomes Audun to the class by asking him to describe his former life in the country. But there are stories about his family he would prefer to keep to himself, such as the weeks he spent living in a couple of cardboard boxes, and the day of his little brother's birth, when his drunken father fired three shots into the ceiling. So he refuses to talk and refuses to take off his sunglasses. In his late teens Audun is the only one of his family who remains with his mother in their home in a working-class district of Oslo. He delivers newspapers when he is not in school and talks for hours about Jack London and Ernest Hemingway with his best friend Arvid. But he's not sure that school is the right path for him, feeling that life holds other possibilities.… (more)

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