Title : The Scandal (published as Beartown in the US)
Author : Fredrik Backman
Genre : Fiction, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher : Penguin Books Ltd in 2017
Plot Summary :
The Scandal is the story of a small town deep within a Swedish forest. This town, Beartown, is an ice hockey town. The whole place seems to be obsessed with the game. It is the life-force of the town. Then something happens which splits the town into sides and everyone is caught up in the scandal. The plot follows a whole cast of characters including players on the ice hockey team, their coaches and their families.
My expectations were pretty high before I started reading this. I read another of Backman’s novels ‘A Man Called Ove’ and adored it. It became one of my favourite reads of all time so I was thrilled to read his new book especially because it seemed more along the lines of a suspense novel which I naturally gravitate towards. The Scandal did not disappoint. Backman spends a long time setting the scene, he delves deep into the characters who make up Beartown before any of the dramatic events take place. We become immediately attached to these characters as every one of them is different, interesting and complex. Some may find that the author spends too much time doing this but I believe that it is necessary for the reader to really immerse themselves in this place. Even before anything really happens there are tense moments of foreboding and because we have really gotten to know the characters when they later commit horrific acts it is all the more shocking. The novel jumps from character to character within every chapter but Backman does this with such skill that it never feels disjointed at all, at least not in my opinion. I just love the way Backman writes, every sentence seems to have a subtle beauty to it. He writes so skilfully about the love humans feel for each other whether is is paternal or maternal love, romantic love or the love found within friendship. A huge theme in this novel is loyalty and what we are driven to because of it. His writing can also be heartbreakingly sad, the author writes so beautifully about loneliness and loss which is why I started following his work in the first place .
“People say she’s gone mad, because that’s what people who know nothing about loneliness call it.”
The Scandal by Fredrik Backman
This book is about ice hockey but you do not need to be a hockey fan or even remotely interested in sports at all to love it. I dislike almost all sport but the novel uses sport to convey everything else, Backman uses ice hockey and connects human emotion to it which anyone can understand. Everyone understands the concepts of competition, hierarchy and community and that is what makes this book so accessible. There is hockey jargon in it but everything is woven so well into the story that it just seems a natural part of the book and it never feels like just a novel about a sport.
There are moments of brutality and violence that seem all the more shocking because I did not see them coming. The violent moments never seem gratuitous or melodramatic, but are so incredibly affecting because the reader really knows these characters by that point. You know how the book will end from the blurb but the real story is how all the characters get to that point and how a small town especially can be fractured so much by one single action.
Apparently there is going to be a sequel from the author which perhaps explains the time he takes to really set this place up in the readers mind. I, for one, cannot wait to return to Beartown.