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The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules - add your questions

(97 Posts)
ffinnochio Thu 26-Dec-13 13:22:54

Thank you for my copy of this book GNHQ! I received it in this morning's post (the French don't observe Boxing Day). I was very taken with the title, which is why I entered for the Book Giveaway. I'll review it anon.
A lovely surprise gift, which had me wondering for a moment just who might have sent it.......until I remembered! smile

pipparj Tue 11-Feb-14 09:45:57

Has anyone seen the author's interview for this book yet? Have I missed it somewhere? confused

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 11-Feb-14 10:25:40

The author, Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg, has come back with the answers below. Enjoy!

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:54:05


Thank you for the book Gransnet.I cannot agree with the "lost in translation" comments,as I found the book funny and engaging.The 5 main characters were the type of people you might meet anywhere in the world,elderly and not about to lie down and accept society's poor treatment of them!I think the story draws attention to that problem in a really humorous way with their rebellion led by Martha.Anna-Greta,Rake,Brains and Christina are such different people but unite with Martha to have fun and adventures.
I love the way they become more and more daring and yet their "loot" is always used to improve others lives.The ending is great,leaving the reader wondering what they will get up to in their new life.
Some of the scenes are so funny that I think it would make a great film.
Whether you like this book or not is,I think,a matter of different senses of humour rather than the original language or setting.

Dear Oznan, thanks for your comments. I love the way you write about my book, you have really understood it properly. It makes me so happy! Thank you!

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:54:58


Thank you for my copy. I have just started it and so far am enjoying very much. I LOVED this line in the prologue "She had wrapped a neon-coloured scarf around her neck, so if a photo was taken of her with flash, it would automatically overexpose the rest of the picture and her facial features would disappear...if she had to be old, she might as well be wise, too."

My question is that in this day and age 79 isn't that old (I remember there was a thread on Gransnet ages ago that said under 80 is still middle age) so given the book is about a "little old lady" with a zimmer frame were you not tempted to make her older?

Thanks for your comments. Funny you commented this! It is from my experience as an underwater photographer in murky waters in the Baltic Sea. Here you must not have signs in white or jellow or white underwater-they overexpose. So I used to have figures and numbers in black on green … I felt this was a fun expertise knowledge for Martha…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:56:21


Thank you for my copy. I have just started it and so far am enjoying very much. I LOVED this line in the prologue "She had wrapped a neon-coloured scarf around her neck, so if a photo was taken of her with flash, it would automatically overexpose the rest of the picture and her facial features would disappear...if she had to be old, she might as well be wise, too."

My question is that in this day and age 79 isn't that old (I remember there was a thread on Gransnet ages ago that said under 80 is still middle age) so given the book is about a "little old lady" with a zimmer frame were you not tempted to make her older?

Thanks for your letter! And to answer your question, I actually had some problems with this because aging differs so much nowadays. My mother still practised as a doctor at the age of 94. Yet you have people that are very old at 75. So I choose an age where you can be old, yet young if you have no serious diseases and eat and train properly…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:56:44


How does it feel to have your book translated into other languages? If as an author you have crafted a book with careful choice of words do you not worry that nuance and effect will be lost?

To be translated into other languages is fascinating indeed. Now and then I am thinking at the wonder that somebody in England, Brazil or Russia can share my thoughts, what I have been thinking of all alone by myself in front of the computer. It almost feels surrealistic and I am very happy about it!

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:57:29


I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book at the moment, enjoying it so far.

It isn't a book I would normally choose but I think its good to read things which are outside of your normal choice.

Hopefully I will have finished the book soon enough to ask the author some relevant questions.

The only questions I have so far are similar to other questions on here,

1. How does the author feel about the translation?
2. Does she understand English well enough to know how it comes across in another language?
3. Is it normal for Swedish citizens to end up in care homes when they get older?

Many thanks for the book.

As an author it is difficult to judge a translation-the reason being that you are never as good in that foreign language as the translator. But you can of course pick up “the tone” of the book. And as regards “The little old lady…” I am happy indeed.

And care home, a lot of people end up there. Some have assistants in their homes too. And of course if the care homes are not any better when I get really old I will be one of those who sits at home to the bitter end…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:57:56


I'm enjoying the book very much. It's great to read about feisty old people. I wonder if the author has elderly relatives in a retirement home?

My aunt was in a very good care home in the country and I used to visit her every year. Then I realised that the standard was much worse in Stockholm, and it got worse until a point when I thought, hallo, prisoners are better taken care of than the elderly! So very angry and sad because of the bad way the elderly are treated in Sweden I wrote the book…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:58:47


Like some others I found the plot too silly - a cross between the Keystone Kops and a Carry On film - but after a while the characters grew on me and I found I wanted them to be happy in their lives and succeed in their final crime. It's a fun read and light reading and I'm happy to have it on my bookshelf. Many thanks for my copy.
Question for Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg: Is your portrayal of an old people's home based on any facts - a court case in your country for instance - or is it purely fiction? Do you fear getting old?

Thanks for your interesting questions. My story is not based on a particular care home, I got the facts from articles, journalistic research and I have also visited a home or two. It is a severe critic of nowadays society where people are not taken care of properly. I have been swimming near the white shark in Australia, but aging scares me more…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 15:59:42


I'm certainly enjoying the book it took me a short while to get into but now can't put it down they remind me of an elderly version of Robin Hood relieving the rich and making sure the poor get rewarded in some way,my question is: do you know personally ladies like these characters ? and will you be writing another with the same type of humour as I found it very funny in parts and could relate to a couple of the ladies.Thank you for the opportunity to read the book.grin

You are right. As the book has five characters it takes a page or two to present them all. However, I deliberately tried to make the book funny because I love when people laugh and critizing with humour tends to remain with people more than if you just whinge…I don´t know people like those ladies, maybe it is the first of my 17 books where I use myself. I have to confess that Martha and Brain are a bit like me …

Yes I will write more humorous books like this, “The little old lady who strikes again” is already written and I am planning a third one. And it is not difficult to write. I am enjoying to be on these adventures with my five fiction characters…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:00:20


My question to the author concerns the rebelliousness of the characters. Is she a naturally rebellious person herself? Does this bool reflect how she would like to be in her later years? Or was it the result of seeing someone she knows live in an old peoples home?

Yes, I am a rebellion myself and I have always chosen my own way in life. I guess I am going to be terrible in any care home demanding a proper human treatment and not accepting any foolishness. I wanted to write about strong elderly people. They are treated too badly in today´s society…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:01:09


It seemed to me that in this country anyone with this degree of mobility would not be in a care home, more likely in sheltered accommodation. Does the author feel that there is a different attitude to the needs of the elderly in Sweden?

In the society today my feeling is that elderly are not counted or seen at all. It is horrible to treat old people like this. They are not even given respect, nor proper food. I gets me so angry. That´s why I wrote the book.

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:02:16


Did you actually write this as a comment on the Swedish welfare system or just as a promotion and celebration of the ability of older people to want to have fun, be creative and stand up for themselves?

I wrote this as a comment on the Swedish welfare and the bad treatment of elderly in general. I wanted to write about some elderly who did not accept it. So then Martha and her friends were born…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:02:53


Still haven't got through it yet. I'd like to know why Scandinavian writers have only now seem to be discovered ? Is it lack of translator s or were publishers in the uk not interested?

It is an interesting question… But i.e. I paid the translation of the synopsis and the first 50 pages myself without knowing if I ever would get my money back – and it was a huge sum for an author… But then I also have an agent. They are fairly new in Sweden… And then of course, nowadays there have been many successful Swedish authors and the foreign publishers become more interested...

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:03:45


I would like to ask Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg if there will be a follow up book tracking the pensioners' new life? Also,are the characters based on people she knows?

Thank you for your questions… Yes, there will be at least two more follow up books. If there are people in my surrounding that have inspired me??? Put it this way, I have assembled characteristics of personalities in society and in my surrounding and have put them into one character like Christina, Anna-Greta. But in Martha and the Brain there is a lot of me. (Although I want to eat well and train and not become overweight as the Brain…) And as regard the Rake, that type of person is well known in most places I guess…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:04:10


Thank you for my copy. I enjoyed reading this and a plus it made me laugh.
My question is are the five based on any one in real life?

Hallo Annie. No, this book is my fantasy… Something I would have liked very much to happen in real life. And the characters are made up to make a nice gang, personalities that you find out there in society. Although in Martha and the Brain there is a lot of me in it-although I did not think of it when I wrote the book, I can see it afterwords…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:05:26


My questions would be:

As a well-established and award-winning author across a range of genres, what do you enjoy writing most - factual books, historical fiction or humour?

And which has given you the most joy - your adventures as a diving archaeologist or your writing career?

Hallo Maggie. I tell you, writing these books about Martha is what I enjoy the most. I have such fun with them and I even laugh at lot of things they are doing. That´s why I am so happy that so many people like them as well, then I can go on writing like this just being my normal self. Because I like when people laugh, I like pulling jokes in reality etc…

I think this marine archaeology was right at the time and I enjoyed it then. Now writing is the thing. And I would not have been able to write these books about Martha and the Gerry gang without my former experience in life.

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:05:59


Has Queen Silvia really had a face lift? (page 274) And all her country knows about it?

Hallo Joanna! The queen has said nothing about it herself, but in Sweden it is “general knowledge.” I have seen her at close range and have no doubts myself. And I think it is such a pity as she who was the most beautiful woman in Sweden not could have aged with dignity and beauty. She have sent bad signals to other women-you are not beautiful enough when you are 50, you have to have a facelift. I know I might have been less ugly with a facelift-but I refuse. I think people shall accept you the way you are…

CatharinaIngelmanSundberg Wed 12-Mar-14 16:07:45

And in answer to some of the more general questions...

1) How would you describe The Little Old Lady Who Broke All
the Rules?

It is a book about five people, all over 70, who become tired of
the way society treats them. They leave their care home in a bid
to launch new careers as thieves because they have noticed that
prisoners are treated better in jail than the elderly in old
people´s homes!

2) Why did you decide to write about a group of friends living in a
care home?

I get so frustrated when I read about harsh savings on elderly
care. These older people have built today’s society and made it
possible for many of us to have a good life. But then when they
are ‘past it’ they are treated very badly. This is just not on. So
while this book is full of humour, it is also a strong protest
against a society that has forgotten human values. I wanted to
highlight this issue and make people think about the care of elderly

3) Who is your favourite character in the League of Pensioners?

Actually, I love them all. Martha is my central character, of
course, and I identify with her, but I like Brains very much, too,
as well as Anna-Greta, Christina and Rake. So, you see, it is difficult
to single out just one of them . . .

4) Can you see yourself becoming like Martha as you grow older?

Yes, or perhaps I might be even more outrageous! But I’d like
to think that I would eat more healthily – and not steal so much!

5) Do you have a favourite moment in the book?

My favourite moment is when the League of Pensioners steal
the paintings at the National Museum – and the end of the book

6) Do you have any favourite novels?

I enjoy feel-good novels. I also read Dickens, Oscar Wilde and
many other English authors. I love English films, too, and the
wonderful sense of humour that English people have!

7) What do you enjoy most about being an author?

Honestly, it gives me the freedom to plan my own time and do
what I want, where I want.

8) The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules has sold to 17
countries so far and has been published under several different titles.
Can you tell us what the other titles are and what they mean?

The original Swedish title is Kaffe med Rån which translated
means ‘Coffee and Robbery’. Some countries have followed
the Swedish title, i.e. the Icelandic version Kaffi og Rán. The
German title is Wir fangen gerade erst an (We’ve Only Started
Now), the Italian title is La banda degli insoliti ottantenni (You
Cannot Trust the 80 year olds), the Norwegian title is Svindel og
multelikør (Crookery and Cloudberry liqueur), the Spanish title
is La Bolsa o la vida (The Money or Your Life) and the Dutch title
is very much the same – Je geld of je leven.

I love the English title, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the
Rules because it says exactly what the book is all about. A group
of elderly people who break all the rules – with Martha as their
leader. And then I identify with the title personally as well!

9) How does it feel to have written an internationally bestselling

Absolutely fantastic! I am so happy with the response I have
had from readers.

10) What do you hope readers will take away from reading about
Martha and the gang?

I want them to take care of the old, take care of each other, to
remember human values and most of all to enjoy life.

nipsmum Fri 14-Mar-14 14:21:05

I have just finished reading this book. Probably close to the most useless boring thing i have read since I got my kindle 2 years ago. Maybe after working with the elderly for a long time I have lost any sense of humour that I had aboue them. What possessed anyone to think this was a reasonable subject at all in any language

BrenML Sun 16-Mar-14 11:20:41

I'm just over half-way through this book and loving it. Such a delightful change. I want to be on Martha's gang. I hope there is going to be a follow on.