Book Reviews

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

beartown

I had not read any of Fredrick Backman’s previous novels but when I first heard about his latest, Beartown, I knew I had to read it. A key factor in this is that it is set in a small town where ice hockey plays a key role. Ice hockey is still considered a minority sport in the UK but is a big part of my life so was excited to read a novel that features it! And as I started to read I was gripped and keen to discover the events that cast a shadow over Beartown…

‘Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled 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.’

This was the opening chapter so needless to say; I wanted to find out more! From this we are introduced to life in Beartown, a relatively small, quiet town nestled into the forest, a town that has had its fair share of troubles. There is one thing that helps unite the town or most of it, and that it the junior ice hockey club, and the dream that they could win a championship and subsequently raise the profile of the town. We quickly learn how important a role hockey plays for the town and its residents, from the coaches and management to the young players following their dreams, to their families and the fans in the stands. The events that take place and the internal politics surrounding the running of the team result in the sport being almost a character in its own right. And with everyone’s minds on the forthcoming big game a shocking turn of events results in the lives of two young people changing forever, and the subsequent repercussions threatening the future of the junior team…

From the start I was really intrigued by this story and enjoyed learning about Beartown and its residents and of course, the hockey team. Whilst I wouldn’t say you have to be a hockey fan to enjoy this story as a fan myself I did enjoy the portrayal of the team and the camaraderie between them, as well as the hockey culture. There were a few moments throughout that I could relate to and recognise from my time watching the sport. There is a varied cast of characters who each have their own interesting stories to tell, as do their family members. The main characters include Kevin, a top prospect with aspirations of making it to the top level, and Amat, the youngest player of the team who just wants to belong. We also meet the coaches and their passion for the sport and how it is threatened by the actions of the powers that be. Then there are the families, the people who love those who love the sport. The shocking events that have a big impact on the town raised some interesting issues and I was gripped to the story to see how things would unfold and how events would build up to the sinister conclusion alluded to in the opening sentences. I won’t go into too much detail so as not to ruin the plot but I found it helped to portray the challenges faced by victims of particular crimes and the general attitude towards victims and perpetrators with relation to gender and social standing. It transpires that perceptions of events are influenced by life in a small community and exacerbated by social groups and their dynamic, as individuals must stand up for what they believe, and ensure their voices are heard, even when there are words that others do not wish to hear.

I really enjoyed Beartown, I was gripped by the plot and the portrayal of a small community and its love for a sport that is important to me. It is a very human story which covers a variety of issues and themes. It is a story of unity and companionship, of finding your place. It is also one of love and friendship, revenge and loyalty and moving forward.

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4 thoughts on “Beartown by Fredrik Backman

  1. Love your review. I hadn’t planned on reading Beartown, but after reading several rave reviews, I’m going to have to reconsider.

    Liked by 1 person

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