Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Book Review: THE SCANDAL by Fredrik Backman


Title: The Scandal (also published under "Beartown")
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publisher:
Penguin UK - Michael Joseph
Read:
July 2017
Expected publication: 28 August 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Late one evening, toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there.


Book Description (Goodreads):

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.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


My musings:

The only one good thing about being sick is being able to stay in bed and read all day – and I couldn’t have chosen a better book to read than Fredrik Backman’s The Scandal (also published under the title Beartown). As I emerged, many hours later, blinking dazedly into the fading light like a bear just emerging from hibernation, all I can say is: Wow! What an emotional rollercoaster ride this book has been for me! I am not sure if I need to sit for a while to process the whole story before writing this review, or gush out my emotions whilst they are still raw, but one thing I know for sure – this book will leave a deep imprint on me for some time to come, and it will feature strongly on my favourites list.

I have only recently come across Backman’s books by picking up A Man Called Ove (and instantly kicked myself for not doing so sooner). The Scandal is a very different book in many ways, but shows off Backman’s innate skill of portraying human nature in its rawest form. May it be through a lovable curmudgeon like Ove, or through the many varied characters of Beartown, who jump from the pages like flesh and blood people I have known all my life. Absorbed in the story, I no longer felt like a reader, but a participant. I could describe Beartown to you as if I had walked the icy streets in the dark myself, so vividly did it play out in my mind.

If anyone had told me even a week ago that one day I would swoon over a book about hockey, I would have laughed in their face. I am not a sporty person – ask my husband! Whilst he can sit for hours watching the golf (and what is more boring than golf on TV, honestly!), I struggle to point out the difference between football and tennis. The closest I ever came to being sporty was giving birth to one of my children on football grand final day, and neither my husband nor the doctor (who arrived in the birthing suite dressed in his team’s colours and muttering something that sounded suspiciously like: “Couldn’t you at least wait until half-time?”) have ever fully forgiven me. But saying that, whilst hockey features very strongly in Backman’s book, the story is about so much more. The themes that particularly stuck out for me were about the responsibilities of parenthood, of peer pressure, of trying to belong to something. The phrase: “We can’t protect our children” stuck in my head for days – who, as a parent, hasn’t felt that way when your child was hurting and you couldn’t fix it, pave the way for them? Backman has a way of exposing people’s deepest fears that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds and ages, as we see a little bit of us in each character we encounter.

The story is told in many different POVs, and some of the various characters couldn’t be more different. In a book culture which seems to favour unlikeable characters at the moment, Backman’s strength lies in making even the most unlikeable characters sympathetic, even just in the tiniest spark of humanity shown in small acts of kindness or contrition. Despite themes that are troublesome and disturbing, each and every human being has some redeemable characteristics that stop the reader from being able to hate them – even though I wanted to at times! So despite the battle lines being drawn and a town coming to the brink of disaster, the one message that shone through for me was always that of hope, and forgiveness. I loved the way Backman seamlessly switches POV without losing the flow of the narrative, which added a new dimension to the book by exploring different perspectives of situations encountered. Each voice was authentic, and Backman strips his characters bare, exposes their deepest thoughts and feelings for everyone to see. There aren’t many books that can make me cry, but I sobbed unapologetically through this one, which felt strangely cathartic by the time I got to the end. 

Summary:

The Scandal (or “Beartown”) was easiest one of the best books I have read all year, which took me on a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster ride like only few books can. Whilst hockey features strongly in the story, this book is about so much more than sport. Tapping right into the heart of small town life, the book explores what makes ordinary people tick and strips its characters bare until their raw emotion is exposed for everyone to see. With a variety of POVs and small snippets of wisdom and insight sprinkled among the pages, readers from different walks of life will be able to relate to various aspects of the story. A must read, very highly recommended!

Quotes:


We become what we are told we are.

His love of the camaraderie of the sport was grounded in a fear of exclusion.

People feel pain. And it shrinks their souls.

For me, culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit.

Being a parent makes you feel like a blanket that’s always too small. No matter how hard you try to cover everyone, there’s always someone who’s freezing.


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A huge thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.



  

2 comments:

  1. I'm SO excited to read this book soon!

    I gave your blog a follow, and I would truly appreciate it if you could check out my book reviews blog located at https://elsbookreviews.blogspot.ca/ and possibly give it a follow as well! Looking forward to reading more of your reviews!

    - El

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment. Love your blog and am happy to follow. Hope you enjoy the book, it really was a great read. 😊

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