A man and a woman, both of them lonely, meet and fall in love. Both of them crave companionship and family; both are intelligent and good-humored. As Benny and Desirée (a.k.a. Shrimp) are about to discover, all that can stand between them and happiness is —everything.
Benny is a dairy farmer struggling to keep his late parents’ farm alive in a modern world. Desirée is a small-town librarian who has retreated even further into her shell after the death of her young husband. They live in Sweden, perhaps the only country in the world where a love story could begin in a cemetery: it is there, visiting their loved ones’ graves, that they first spot each other.
Their differences are obvious immediately—she’s appalled by the tacky decorations he so carefully arranges around his mother’s grave and he’s turned off by her peaked bookworm looks—but lust and longing drive them into each other’s arms. Just when it looks like love could conquer all, reality rears its ugly head with a vengeance. How can Desirée (who Benny promptly nicknames “Shrimp”), with her love of high culture, independence, and postmodern theory, be happy in a creaking old farmhouse that’s stuck in the 1950s? And how can a man like Benny, who sings to his cows on Christmas Eve and longs for a buxom woman to come along and help run the farm, reconcile himself to store-bought meatballs and evenings at the opera?
In Benny and Shrimp, Katarina Mazetti allows her two characters to speak for themselves in alternating chapters, giving readers an intimate look inside the minds of two people as they struggle to bridge the gap between their separate worlds for the sake of true love. The farmer and the librarian could be two figures in a pastoral fable, but here they spring to life in all its sexy, infuriating, confounding messiness. Will modern-day practicality keep them apart, or will the unlikely couple live the fairy tale ending? Either way, their path is a universal one of love, heartbreak, and hope.
BENNY AND SHRIMP
"A bestseller in Sweden, this offbeat, down-to-earth love story is refreshingly light to read and becomes slightly addictive.[...]
Complex, moody and bookish, Shrimp is a cappuccino-drinking, Lacan-discussing vegetarian with depressed, dysfunctional friends, while the rugged Benny is obsessed with farming and manure. She finds his farm filthy and full of embarrassing decor; he finds her gleaming white flat 'sanitised like a hospital ward where she's cooking some vegetable concoction that gives me wind'. Benny tells himself he needs a farmer's wife like that of his neighbour and so wonders, mischievously, whether 'science could transplant Shrimp's convoluted beige soul into Violet's plump bosom and hard-working hands'. But human qualities cannot be mixed like cattle feed. However, as Shrimp romantically puts it: 'Love makes others into doves, gazelles, cats, peacocks, but I - quivering, wet and transparent - am your jellyfish.' True, unsmooth love indeed."
"In the mood for love lit Why efforts to take romance out of its ghetto haven’t worked.[...]
The complicating factors in these books sometimes accentuate the conventional restrictions that do remain in place. A baby is meant to resolve the frustrated, chatty love story in Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti, but by the time one has reached that point, all the small problems the two protagonists have piled up between them have started to seem insurmountable, and it is a relief that one doesn’t have to stick around and find out how the fragile little family fares.
Mazetti’s is a book unusually concerned, for a romance, with the quotidian workings of love; here it isn’t merely a feeling but a series of things you are willing, or not willing, to do for someone else. Though Shrimp does vanquish a love rival to get to Benny, the usual epic obstacles aren’t otherwise in evidence. We simply see how hard it is, in a pragmatic, mundane sense, for a relationship to work, and for people to communicate with one another out of their own petty isolations. When baby abruptly trumps all this at the end, it feels like an awkward jolt back into a quainter genre.[...]
London Review of Books
"Opposites attract. Yes, it's one of the oldest plot lines around but, as Benny & Shrimp shows, it's still one of the most effective.
The location is a bench in a graveyard where Benny comes to pay his respects at his mother's grave, while Desirée (known as Shrimp, due to her delicate — OK, faded — looks) comes to berate her husband for dying so young. Benny is an open-hearted and undomesticated farmer, worried he's spent too long with just his cows for company. Shrimp is a librarian with a love of poetry and a flat furnished with clinical minimalist chic. The two have nothing in common except a surprising physical attraction and the ticking of their respective biological clocks. Can it be enough to keep them together — especially when Shrimp is confronted with the sight of Benny's frilly floral curtains?
Sweet and pleasingly down-to-earth, it's no wonder that Mazetti's offbeat romance was a runaway bestseller in her native Sweden."
Benny and Shrimp, which sold half a million copies in Sweden is now translated to over 33 different languages, where the latest additions include Vietnamese, Portugese, Chinese and Polish.
It has been played as a theater around Europe for the last 3 years and was recently made a film in France. (There is a immensly popular Swedish film version too, from a couple of years back.) 10 more of Mazetti's book titles are now sold to France, where her other books have sold in over a million copies.
"Benny and Shrimp" in 33 different languages