Summary from Goodreads:
Bjorn is a compulsive, exacting bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works—a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Bjorn is in his room, what his coworkers see is him standing by the wall and staring off into space looking dazed, relaxed, and decidedly creepy. Bjorn’s bizarre behavior eventually leads his coworkers to try to have him fired, but Bjorn will turn the tables on them with help from his secret room. Author Jonas Karlsson doesn’t leave a word out of place in this brilliant, bizarre, delightful take on how far we will go—in a world ruled by conformity—to live an individual and examined life.
I have absolutely no clue what to make of this book. I was pulled right in, and then I was bored and at times even offended, and then I was intrigued once more, and then the author lost me again. Just…my goodness, what?!
I have read reviews saying that they found this book to be quite witty and humorous. Some even said they found themselves laughing out loud more than once or twice. But I just didn’t find it funny at all. At all. I think the attempt at humour was either merely so poorly done, or perhaps the translation to English was a bit off? I’m not sure. Whichever it is, the humour—or rather the attempt at—just didn’t sit right with me. Not one bit. Keep in mind that that’s coming from someone who highly appreciates and even respects dark humour in her books.
I honestly just thought Björn was a huge, pretentious, over-the-top jerk. There was hardly one page where he didn’t believe he was absolutely on top of everyone else; that he’s better than everyone else. He was downright an insulting character and that made it so difficult to form an attachment with his character. Although, to be fair, I knew going into this book that the protagonist was going to be unreliable and an antihero. I suppose this is more of an “it’s me, not you” situation. As a personal preference, I guess I just don’t like it when the protagonist in my book is so highly unlikeable that said protagonist becomes TOO unbearable to read! Björn was driving me mad!
But, hold on a second though. Here’s what persuaded me into giving this book 3 stars instead of 2: the author captured very well how majority of people, and society today in general, treat those who are suffering or dealing with mental illness. That, I would have to say, was incredibly well done. When Björn’s colleagues were beating down on him, judging him, even gossiping about him without so much as a care in the world if he overhears them…those moments were the rare moments I found myself to be 100% on Björn’s side. These were the moments I wanted Björn to come on top, no matter how much of a pretentious and arrogant jerk I believed him to be. When his colleagues were making a point that they couldn’t possibly work alongside someone who clearly has mental issues, I couldn’t help but almost root for the very main person I grew to dislike since the beginning of this book. This, though, seemed to be the only thing I really appreciated about this book. Everything else just put me off.
I’ve come to a conclusion that this is another one of those books that you either get or just don’t get. I badly wanted to like this book, I wanted—so, so badly—to understand it! I wanted to turn the last page of this book and be able to say to myself “hey, I actually got this!” and then feel a little bit more enlightened than I felt before I hard started the book. I wanted to be able to say that I learned something new or even profound from it. Instead, I was just irritated and annoyed and quite stressed when I turned the last page and then found that I had said “WHAT?!” out loud to myself.
Oh well. If a book isn’t for you, it isn’t for you.