A masterclass in creating character and atmosphere
Title: Beartown (original title: Björnstad)
Author: Fredrik Backman (Sweden)
Translators: Neil Smith (from Swedish)
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
First published: 2016
Edition: Kindle e-book
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Speechless. I had expected this one to be good, but I had not quite expected the impact of the story and to be blown away by the writing as much as I was.
This book is a masterclass in storytelling in my opinion. It switches view points all the time and therefore shows events from all of perspectives, which gives the narrative a very fully formed feel. It’s a story about teenagers and what it is like to be parent and to want to protect your child against all costs. It is incredibly well done. In the aftermath of the rape of a young girl, you ache for the kids and their struggle to do what’s right, you ache for the parents and you ache for the fact that so much of this story rings far too true.
There is a trigger warning for rape here, which I do think is important to mention. I think it’s very well handled and I think all in all the author does a great job in discussing the subject.
The writing felt like a perfectly laid mozaic; the way the author shifts from viewpoint to viewpoint was just perfectly executed. You get to understand the minds of so many characters; their hopes and dreams for themselves, for each other and especially parents for their children. I was amazed that despite the amount of characters it never felt confusing.
Backman does a great job creating an ominous atmosphere and I just felt the tension build and build.
I loved the characters, loved the atmosphere and adored the writing. A must-read!
7 out of 7 stars