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review 2017-06-02 23:57
Nothing like A Man Called Ove.
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

Oh dear, I was so looking forward to a new title by Fredrik Backman. I'd loved A Man Called Ove and was hoping for something along similar lines. Alas, I have no interest in sport, particularly ice hockey and I found the style in which the book is written rather patronising - for example: "And what is a Club?" (loc 4619) and: "What is a home?" (loc 4682).


The story takes place in an isolated community in a forested area of Sweden. The community's proudest moments have come from the up-coming junior hockey squad and everything revolves around them winning the junior final and progressing to the main tournament the following year. That's about all that happens for the first half of the book.

In the second half though, an event occurs, that turns the village on its head; there are recriminations and denials, and 'hockey' becomes the cause and the defense.


When writing reviews I always check back over the highlights that I've noted in my Kindle, a particularly good book inevitably has a good number of highlights. The number of highlights for this book is sadly telling. I found the hockey theme uninspiring and most of the characters were quite unpleasant.

It gets amazing reviews on Amazon, so I'm obviously alone in my opinion, but personally, I would only recommend it to people who live in ice hockey communities.

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text 2017-05-16 06:59
"Beartown" has me holding my breath and I've barely started it - 3% complete
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

"Beartown" is the latest book from Fredrik Backman ( "A Man Called Ove" and "My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry"). It's about a remote, slowly dying, small town in the middle of the woods where the success of the Junior Hockey Team is the last hope for the town to grow rather than continue its slow decline.


I've barely started the book and its already holding my imagination hostage. The language is simple and undramatic yet it gets to the heart of the things that shapes lives.


Here's how it starts:

"Late one evening, towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked in to the forest, put the gun to someone elses forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there".


I'd love to take today off to drink this book down but I'll have to sip at it as work permits. Still, it will make my day.

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review 2017-05-05 22:42
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

What can I say? Fredrik Backman, you've done it again. I am speechless and shocked and in awe etc etc.


I had the time of my life reading Beartown: a chilly, honest examination of a small, poor town whose future rests on the shoulders of the local teenage hockey team.


Unlike Backman's previous works, which focus on one (sometimes two, but usually) one character, Beartown features a large cast. I was very thrown off by this at first, as I'd become used to Backman's style; he really changes it up here. It took fifty or so pages for me to get a handle on all the characters, but once I did I really enjoyed the ride. All these people are endlessly fascinating to read about--they harbor grudges and secrets and hopes; Backman writes about the powerful, underdogs, and everyone in between with precision and raw skill. Topics such as homosexuality, the alluring power of groupthink, small town politics, rape culture, and parenthood are handled with surprising ease and dignity. Backman is a master of misdirection: he leads his readers in one direction, only to reveal it's all a fake out and, instead, takes them to a much more fulfilling place. Sorry, fanboying here. I just really love this author, okay?


Beartown is a fabulous novel. I couldn't find anything to complain about if I tried. I don't even like hockey, but the author made it not only interesting — he actually had me on the edge of my seat during the game scenes. That's a feat in itself!


Highly recommended to any and all readers. This is slightly different from his previous work, and I welcome the change. An author has to grow to survive. I cannot wait to see what Backman publishes next!


(I'd also like to show my appreciation for Neil Smith, who translated this fine novel from the original Swedish to English. Great job!)

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review 2017-05-04 23:08
Backman has a way of exposing mans inhumanity to man and then finding ways around it to offer hope.
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

Beartown, Fredrick Backman, author; Marin Ireland, narrator

*Beartown is a forgotten, dying town. All the hopes of the townspeople rest on their hockey team to bring them back some glory days. The town is consumed by hockey. Their love for hockey supersedes their love for all else and guides their thoughts and behavior; sometimes, neither the team’s nor the town’s behavior is exemplary.

Peter Andersson is the General Manager of the team. He is about to terminate Sune who has been the “A” team coach forever. Peter was convinced to become the General Manager of the team by Sune, after the death of his first born son, Isak, but hockey comes first before friendship and loyalty. There is only one loyalty in Beartown, and it is first and foremost to the game and the team. The sponsors, the club and the town demand it. They are all involved in hockey, and it is the be-all and end-all of everything. If the team wins the finals, Beartown will get a renewed lease on life with a new state-of-the-art, hockey rink. Therefore, the players, the club members, the leadership and the residents are products to be used and discarded as needed. Winning is the only game in town. It is what they all believe will save their town from eventual extinction.

Peter was a hockey star until an injury benched him forever. His wife Kira is a relatively successful lawyer. They have two children, Maya and Leo. Maya is a typical 15 year-old teenage girl; her heartstrings are awakening. She is woefully naïve and a bit immature, believing she has more power to control her own fate than she truly possesses. Life is about to intervene and awaken her rudely to a new reality.

David is single, and he was also sidelined by injury. He was convinced to become the junior team coach by Sune whom he will soon betray for the town and the team. His motto for his junior team is only one word, and it has worked for his team for a decade. It makes them feel invincible. His motto is simply WIN! Kevin is one of his junior team members. Amat is soon to be one of them.

Kevin, 17, is the star of the junior team. He is dedicated and unstoppable. He is also very wealthy. His father is a team sponsor. His parents are rarely home, and rarely see him play. They will never be accused of being helicopter parents. Kevin is arrogant and self-assured. The town hears him practicing often. It is the sound of “bang, bang, bang” as he slams the puck into the net over and over. He is a dynamo on the ice. His parents turn a blind eye to his misdeeds and pretend he does nothing wrong. His success at hockey is their only goal.

Amat, 15, skates at the rink in exchange for doing chores for the caretaker. His mom, Fatima, is the cleaner at the rink. He adores hockey and his mom. He tries to do everything to lighten her load because she has a bad back. He knows he means everything to her. She loves watching him skate at the rink before it opens for the regulars, the figure skaters and the hockey teams who have scheduled ice time. Amat is honorable and unassuming. He is dedicated to improving his hockey game. His motto is “again, again, again” as he skates around the rink trying to become faster and faster to make up for his small size.

There are other characters, and each plays an important role. They are all defined well. Zacharias is Amat’s best friend. He is a hockey player, but he is nowhere near as talented as his friend. He likes playing computer games. Benji is Kevin’s best friend. He also plays hockey. He does not follow rules well and is hot-tempered, but he is also Kevin’s protector. (In the book, Kevin is described as an investment and Benji is his insurance.) Benji has a secret. Ana is Maya’s best friend. She spends a lot of time at Maya’s house and not her own. She is less naive than Maya, but she is subject to the same weaknesses that all teenagers experience. These friendships are special as they morph through their different stages.
The town has two main areas. There is the Hollow and the Heights, and they are two opposite parts of town economically, but friendships and hockey unite them. The unspoken rule in the town which puts hockey above all else, even family, is the thread that runs throughout as the author highlights the toll that the world of hockey takes on its players and the town. The hypocrisy and the mob mentality that often follows sporting events, giving lie to the meaning of the words “good sportsmanship”, often follows when a town feels threatened, and it grows until it seems out of control, much like political protests. The focus is obscured, the goal is not solution, but instead it is vengeance.

Backman magnifies the guilt and the shame the characters feel, and he exposes the way people explain away their silence in the face of wrongdoing, justifying it with false excuses that simply give them comfort but do not solve the problems and perhaps only exacerbate them. He has a gift. He manages to capture all of the flaws of society and people, and he lays them bare. He confronts humanity or the lack thereof. He confronts homosexuality and rape. He confronts single motherhood, interracial relationships and the distinctions of class. He confronts bullies of all kinds and interprets the ambition, fear and anger each character faces. All are handled with dexterity. When the injustice and the warts are exposed, he subtly challenges the characters to rise above them, but often they do not. The curmudgeons are the most lovable characters in his books, and like in his other books, in this one, there is a strong role model, a female character who does set a fine example for the rest of the town to follow, even as she seems like the least likely one to do it. All of the characters seem authentic, even when the dialogue seems a little trite.

On the negative side, I found the departure from the wholesome narrative of his other books, to a book with crude language, a bit over the top and unnecessary. Some of the scenes seemed contrived, on occasion, as well. On the more curious side, I had some other thoughts. I wondered if the name of the rival town, spelled Hed, but pronounced as head, was deliberate. The supermarket owner was Tails. In the end, weren’t the goals of both towns, Hed and Beartown, competing for success. Were they opposite sides of the same coin? Also, Peter’s first born was Isak. Was he meant to make the reader think of the sacrifice of Isaac in the Bible?

*I had both a digital print copy provided by the publisher and an audio from the library.




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text 2017-04-26 00:46
Reading progress update: I've read 112 out of 418 pages.
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

Wow. So far, this is Backman's best work. 

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