Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a book about humanity. About making choices between what’s right and wrong. And also about a lot of ice hockey.
Beartown is a little town nestled deep into the forest. A town with two seasons only and residents that never leave. Beartown is also a small town that lives and breathes hockey, hoping for that once chance to put the town on the map. When a young talented team of ice hockey players is about to make their break out, a whole town gets divided when a girl is traumatized and no resident is left unaffected.
“The very worst events in life have that effect on a family: we always remember, more sharply than anything else, the last happy moments before everything fell apart.”
Backman displays a lot of strengths in this book. From the start on you’ll get to meet a array of characters which he introduces to you with the backdrop of Beartown. The little town comes alive before your eyes. But at the same time I struggled to keep characters apart. Some of the boys, that weren’t main characters, blurred together for me. And then to have to remember the name of the parents of those boys as well, it kinda got lost on me. Beartown was clear at first, but got muddier the more I went on.
The writing in this book is stunning. Backman knows how to write. He knows how to start chapters and grab a reader’s attention. He also has the talent to make ice hockey mildly entertaining to someone, said blogger, doesn’t give a damn about sports whatsoever.
There’s also the topic of sexual assault in this book, the reality of how this situation was dealt with was chilling. The emotions and the reactions of people around her so on spot with today’s society. Unfair, frustrating, but so realistic. And I applaud Backman for using Beartown to give these issues a voice.
“Time always moves at the same rate, only feelings have different speeds.”
The issues I had with this book probably have a lot to do with taste. But at some point Backman writes about how words don’t hurt to later come to the conclusion they do. But concludes this again for another three times. He keeps stepping out of the story to go a on philosophical spree, mostly coming to the same conclusion as the sentence he started the paragraph with.
At the half-point this way of writing started to grate me. This stunning writing became repetitive, while the strength could’ve been in it’s simplicity. He writes a lot of foreboding sentences; of things to come; of hurt to come. But again, these once beautiful haunting sentences keep appearing similarly throughout the book, to the point where these lines couldn’t touch me any more.
For a lover of big books it’s a rare thing to say; but I wish this book could’ve been shorter. If this book had been 100 pages less, it would’ve been more powerful to me. With it’s length and repeating, I lost the connection to the plot and characters. A true shame.
While I was reading Beartown I discovered this book had a sequel and some weird plot twists started to make a lot more sense to me. As if Backman decided about 100 pages from the end ‘Hey this is a good story, but I could definitely do a sequel if I change some things up!’
For example; He starts a plot-line with a character displaying some inner homophobia and leaves it completely without resolution. He gives some minor characters more dimension by adding in more emotions or more plot-twists at the end. It worked confusing for me, I didn’t particularly want to know more, just have the story come to some sorts of a conclusion. But the ending chapter didn’t give me that, only added to it.
“If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway. All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow. Do good anyway. Amat”
There’s a lot of reasons why this book got 3 stars instead of the full 5 stars it could have been. Nonetheless, impressive enough that I look forward to exploring more of Backman’s work.
Author: Fredrik Backman
Translator: Neil Smith (2017)
Publish date: March 3th, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books
Page Number: 415
Language: English (original Swedish)