WOW. So this book was absolutely stunning. I went into this one not knowing a whole lot but I kept seeing it pop up time and time again on my instagram feed, each with glowing five-star reviews. Intrigue got the better of me, and so I had to order it. Thank god I did.
Beartown was originally written in Swedish and has been translated into English. I don’t read many translations, and I want to change that, so this book was a good place to start. Set in a small town in America whose tourism and economy is slowly declining, their only hope is the success of their junior ice hockey team. Of course, the story ends up being so much more than that.
The way in which Backman built up tension through the plot was crafted excellently, and definitely made me want to keep turning the page. Whilst I found the beginning a bit slow as I got to grips with all the different characters, I soon couldn’t put it down. I don’t think the story could have been told in any other way. The different perspectives create a complex array of voices that weave together and tell the plot from lots of different angles.
This made the story even harder to read as it really painted the characters fully. Each and every one was so well crafted and complex. Backman really succeeds in capturing such a realistic snapshot of how humans behave. It felt so real, and made reading the hard parts just that much harder. It really is a testament to his fantastic writing.
What this book did particular excellently, and what really made it stick out for me as such a good read, was Backman’s ability to commentate on society in such a powerful way. It forces readers to take a long and hard look in the mirror and to really think about your words and actions. It looks at how you respond to things that happen around you, and how that affects other people. This book tackles a lot of hard and sensitive topics, from rape culture to homophobia, sexism to peer pressure and conformity. And it does so extremely well.
“She shouldn’t have got rid of the clothes she was wearing. Shouldn’t have showered, Shouldn’t have drunk alcohol. Shouldn’t have put herself in that situation. Shouldn’t have gone into the room, up the stairs, given him the impression. If only she hadn’t existed, then none of this would have happened, why didn’t she think of that?”
Honestly, I could go on and on about this book. Especially in recent times, where there has been so much talk in the #MeToo movement about rape culture, this book rings so bloody true. Only last month, we heard about a barrister in Dublin that implied a 17-year-old girl was ‘asking for it’ because she was wearing a thong, and then used this as evidence against her in court. Even typing those words is so hard, because it’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s devastating. A system that’s built around protecting men and finding a reason to blame women any way they can. Backman takes this hypocrisy, this idea that seems to be so ingrained within our society and shines a light on it so it can’t hide in plain sight anymore.
I honestly can’t recommend Beartown enough.