I had received a review copy of this book while I was prepping for my exams. I was eagerly waiting to read this book, because it was the first time I received an e-ARC of a book written by a bestselling author, sent with love from Penguin UK via NetGalley.
I got around to finally reading it last month. If you’ve read my review of “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, you would recall my tall claim of wanting to compare the writing style of the author in both these books. I regret to say that it is really impossible for me to do so. The only reason why I thought A Man Called Ove and Beartown differed is because I read the former at the wrong time, and the latter at the right time.
After reading two books by Backman, I must admit: Backman has joined my list of favourite authors. I really hope I can finish reading other books by this author too this year.
Getting to the review of Beartown (also called The Scandal):
I love the blue hues on this cover. (The bluish covers of almost every book by Backman is another reason why I’m going to make sure I have every book by him on my bookshelf)
The plot of this story goes like this:
Beartown is a small fictional town in a large Swedish forest. Though isolated from the other cities, the people within the community have a common thread keeping them together – ice hockey. Be it the cleaner at the sports centre or the General Manager of the team or little kids who can barely walk or former ice hockey players who now make a living working in a factory, everyone lives sleeps breathes eats ICE HOCKEY.
And then, ice hockey chooses to play god to the devotees by giving them a chance to reinvent the town, add some magic to its economy and ensure its survival.
And yet, this chance is squandered in one night. Momentary passion and destructive anger ruins a life. And well laid plans, plans with which the lives of the people of Beartown are inextricably linked.
Beartown has to take a stand. Should you support the clean public image of the star player of the ice hockey team, or should you empathise with a girl who speaks an incredible truth? Moreover, how do you cope with an epic tragedy? The proportions of which cannot be fathomed?
There are many characters in this book. I’ll give a brief description of them all, and then talk about my favourite character.
Maya Andersson, her dad Peter (the General Manager), her mom Kira (a lawyer), her brother Leo and her best friend Ana.
Kevin (star player of ice hockey team), his parents, his best friend Benjamin (aka Benji)
A few other noteworthy characters: Amat and William (players in the IHT), Sune (coach of the A-team), David (coach of the juniors team)
And my favourite character: Ramona. (SPOILER ALERT) Ramona is the owner of the Bearskin pub, a place that most former-hockey-players-now-factory-workers frequent. She is a fierce-tempered woman with a strong will and a golden heart. Her husband and life-partner has passed away, and she has barricaded herself into the pub afraid of losing even a single memory she has of him. She has a street-smart tongue and a friendly hug for customers and friends respectively. (SPOILER ALERT END)
You’d have to read the book further to understand why exactly I like Ramona.
What I liked about this book is the author’s intimate style of writing. The story is narrated in a way that enables the reader to understand each character and their reactions to each part of the plot. Which is a pretty common way of narrating a story, I agree. But Backman has outdone his peers in his ability to take the story and the many characters AND the reader forward; together and simultaneously.
I’m not a sports buff. But I didn’t feel the need to be one, just to read this book about a town which revolves around ice hockey. In fact, I have developed an interest in ice hockey thanks to reading this book! The descriptions of the ice hockey matches are done so perfectly, replete with the adrenaline rush of watching a match from the sidelines. This book will entertain lovers of ice hockey and also introduce newbies to this awesome sport.
I had earlier posted a mini-review on GoodReads which stated that fans of Jodi Picoult would love this book too. I hope I have explained my point in a more elaborate manner in this review. I always associate Picoult with – many characters, multiple narratives, a conflict of many interests and a moral dilemma to be solved. And Beartown packs a punch in all these aspects.
What I didn’t like about this book is a sub-part of what I liked about the book. I felt that the narrative kept shifting a lot, to ensure the ‘multiple-points of view of the same incident’ style of narrating. It felt… like a shopkeeper flipping the Open to Closed sign at the very minute you reach the shop. Get what I mean?
Nevertheless, I give this book a 5/5 star rating and recommend it to readers who wish to read an emotionally engaging story about ice hockey set in a small wintry town.