I have to confess with this one, it was a complete ‘Bookstagram made me do it’ and I had been anticipating it for months. The fact that the book was so hyped up, I had incredibly high expectations. Though my expectations were not quite met, I can still say I enjoyed the book and admired the original style of writing that Backman used to give a voice to individual characters and the community as a whole without being overwhelming.
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
“Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.”
Set in an isolated town, the inhabitants of Beartown are united by one passion: the local ice hockey club. It may seem like a small thing, a hobby you could say. But to a Beartown citizen, it holds the key to a better life. And what else is there to get excited about in a place that might as well not exist if it wasn’t for hockey?
With all hopes pinned on a grand final win from the junior team, tensions are high as the town put every inch of faith in a group of teenage boys. One boy in particular. Kevin – their star player. With just a week to go before the final, the unimaginable happens: Alcohol-induced tremors. A violent incident. Like an earthquake, the aftershock causes devastation throughout the town. Kevin is the epicentre.
The town are divided, caught between moral principles and a lifelong passion. What do you do if the dream you always held on to, is put in jeopardy all because of one person’s version of events? Words don’t come easy to Beartowners. But blame does. What does this mean for the future of the club? And more importantly the future of those lifelong residents who have shown nothing but loyalty for their hockey. The club owes them. And they are not afraid to fight for it.
“One of the plainest truths about both towns and individuals is that they usually don’t turn into what we tell them to be, but what they are told they are.”
Praise for Beartown
- I loved that ice hockey was the central theme for this book. Whether you grew up in a hockey town or have little knowledge in the sport, it is easy to become captivated by the passion and sense of community shown by the town.
- Backman’s style of writing completely won me over; short, impactful paragraphs following different characters, telling separate stories that over-arch with other themes in the book. Moral dilemmas, difficult questions, simple answers.
- After reading the first 100 pages, I still had no idea which direction the book was going in. Backman has a way of setting the scene and building tension slowly without making the reader feel bored. I admire that in a author.
Why the 3.5?
- I really hate to say it but this book was slightly over-hyped in my opinion. My expectations were too high and I was disappointed when I didn’t find myself unable to put the book down like I anticipated. I still really enjoyed the book but unfortunately I expected more.
- I mentioned the building tension in the first 100 pages and at the time, I liked this slow build and was expecting an explosive twist. What we got was something that (don’t get me wrong) is a violent crime that is never acceptable but it just felt a little anti-climatic. Maybe if the plot had been a bit tighter and the incident was more of a focal point but it didn’t feel that way to me. It was nestled among philosophical elements which detracted from the narrative.
Overall, I would still recommend Beartown as I believe the writing style alone presents a refreshing and thought-provoking narrative – difficult to find in the saturated fiction market.
You can purchase a copy of Beartown here: Amazon
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Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 482 (paperback)
About the author: Fredrik Backman is a Swedish bestselling author, with other titles including A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry and the Beartown sequel Us Against You. His novels have been published and translated all around the world.