Anxious People

In which 'cops and robbers' is taken to a whole new level

Release Date
Aug 18, 2020
Fredrik Backman
Fiction, Contemporary, Humour, Mental Health
Page Count
Our Score

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This is a simple review of a book that is anything but.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a masterpiece of literary acrobatics. It’s a sympathetic look at anxiety and the things that distract our attention in life away from what really matters. It’s a study on social constructs and economic quandaries. It’s a funny, memorable book that demands your undivided attention.

When you’re a child you long to be an adult and decide everything for yourself, but when you’re an adult you realise that’s the worst part of it.


Fun and quirky, much like the book.


For starters — any Backman book is hard to explain in the form of a premise.

You could say this book is classic ‘cops and robbers’. And then some.

But is Anxious People really a story about a bank robber? Not really. It’s more of a story about the systems we’re caught in — whether of our own making or the world’s — and how they can lead us down some strange roads.

Take seven or so strangers who are viewing an apartment, a couple of bumbling but lovely cops, one bank robber, and a whole lot of shenanigans that include a bridge, a bunny head, and pizza. Sound simple? Definitely not. But does it sound like there are some mad hi-jinx that ultimately tell the story of life and people in a way that will soften your heart? Absolutely.

They say a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.”


Wrapped up nicely but without any of that cloying feeling in your mouth. It’s a mesmerising book that I didn’t want to end, but then when it did — boy, did it bring the feels and close with a flourish.

Anxious People: Review

This is a splendid book. The change in tack between humorous quirks of people and then honest insights into humanity — that eventually all become an even keel where they’re one and the same — is a massive calling card of Backman’s writing. What he can say out loud in a book seems to pinpoint exactly what people think and feel and do but are too afraid to say themselves. The way he puts a spin on situations and clichés made me laugh and cry. Sometimes simultaneously.

What starts as an unlikely story featuring the strangest of people becomes a tale that feels far more rooted in reality than you’ll ever want to admit, and with people you almost definitely know. There’s mystery, hilarity and achingly poignant sorrow.

And dare I say it? Ahh go on, ye will.

This book held me captive and I loved every minute.

Book Club Questions

  • Were you surprised at the bank robber’s identity?
  • Ultimately, we all held hostage by anxieties of one thing or another… and they aren’t always bank robbers. Identify what each character needs rescuing from.
  • Backman’s known for his character development. What character did you most identify with?
  • Who would you cast to play the characters in the movie version of the book?
  • What genre do you think this book most aligns with?
  • There are some big themes of capitalism, economics, mental health, responsibility and family going on here. Chat about how Backman managed to capture these in a lighthearted tale.


Read an excerpt:



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A colourful, curated blend of books, wine and creativity, with a soft spot for Australian work and female-centric narratives.

Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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