Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else' forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.
–Fredrick Backman (trans. Neil Simith) - The Scandal - c.2016,17
also published as Beartown
I was going to say that I recently read Backman’s breakout novel A man called Over, but then I checked the blog and discovered that it was back in 2015! well I suppose that’s very recent if you are talking about the age of the world.
Ove was a book club selection, and I really enjoyed it. But I haven’t read any more Backman until now, and this is also a book club choice.
It tells the story of a small town, on the brink of collapse, and a single event that changes everything.
But it also raises the question, is it really a single event? Is it not a social issue that has been brushed to one side until now?
To be honest I found that this book took a long while to get started. It seemed to hop from character to character, alternating points of view every few pages. But around halfway through either I got my head in the story properly, or it came into focus because it really worked from then on. I really liked the way that Backman doesn’t try to trick the reader into believing things happened one way or another. He tells it baldly, this is what happened. this is wrong. It is the characters in the novel who don’t know the truth, or who chose to believe one thing or another. And none of them, well, almost none, are portrayed as one dimensional bad guys, or good guys. Because that isn’t how life works. Some are people who are trying their best, but still turn a blind eye because “is it really my problem”, and isn’t that a problem with the whole world at the moment?
So although I do wish that the first third had been gutted by an editor I really though the rest was wonderful. And I guess some of that is because of all those words in the first third. You really get a sense of Beartown and its people.