Book Review: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
I fell in love with the idea of this book more than I fell in love with the book itself. The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules, by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, has an absolutely delightful premise.
Originally written in Swedish, it’s a tale of five senior citizens living at the Diamond House retirement home: Martha, Christina, Brains, Anna-Greta, and Rake. Due to stingy new owners who keep making budget cuts and taking away little luxuries, the seniors are forced to live in practically intolerable conditions: terrible food with little to no fresh ingredients, no outings, no exercise, an enforced early bedtime, and mandatory pills that make the residents weary and dull.
The five friends grow increasingly frustrated by these changes, and one day, Martha happens to catch a documentary about a prison. (Mind you – a Swedish prison, which are quite different from prisons elsewhere.) She sees that even criminals are given better meals (with options!), have activities, exercise, and generally better living conditions.
And so, she hatches a plan to convince the others to escape the retirement home and turn to a life of crime – with the intention of eventually landing in jail. They call themselves the League of Pensioners, and aspire to the Robin Hood-esque philosophy of stealing from the rich and contributing that money to improve the living conditions of seniors in retirement homes throughout the country.
Now, I don’t want to give much else away, so if you want to know what kind of crime they attempt and how, you’ll have to read the book. Suffice it to say not everything goes exactly to plan and some hilarious hijinks ensue.
I love that the protagonists of this book are seniors. So few stories feature elderly people, let alone show them as intelligent, capable, and autonomous, so that was a refreshing and fantastic choice. And like I said, I really enjoyed the premise.
I felt there was a lot of untapped potential, primarily with the style of writing. Having been translated from Swedish to English, I acknowledge that perhaps a lot of the style was lost in translation. I personally found the writing to be a bit flat, staccato, and lifeless. I think the story might have been so much more funny and vibrant in the hands of a different writer.
I also would have loved it if the author delved a bit deeper into each character’s thoughts, rather than the story being told primarily through their dialogue and actions. (Granted, this can be tricky with five main characters.) This overly precise, dry style of writing is something I had an issue with while reading another originally Swedish book: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Perhaps they used the same translator, or perhaps it’s simply a cultural preference.
For these reasons, I didn’t rip through the book as quickly as I might have had it been written by a different author. Though the concept was interesting and fun, the book itself was easy to put down.
Overall, still a worthwhile read, particularly if you like lighter fare. xx