Author : Fredrick Backman
Title : The Scandal (US Title : Beartown)
Series : Björnstad #1
Pages : 424
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : August 10, 2017
Beartown is a small town in a large Swedish forest.
For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.
Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. Change is in the air and a bright new future is just around the corner.
Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.
No one can stand by or stay silent. You’re on one side or another.
Which side will you find yourself on?
‘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’s forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.’
How’s that for kicking off a story?! I can’t believe it took me this long to finally pick this one up but boy, was it worth the wait! I’d heard some amazing things from fellow trusted book bloggers and had rather insanely high expectations that were fortunately met on every single page and left me with a massive book hangover!
It took all of one paragraph to make me completely forget the world around me and find myself transported to this small town on the edge of a forest in Sweden. A town where nothing much happens, where it’s cold and dark most of the year, a town with very little prospects, a town where you can either go fishing or hunting or sit in a pub all day. But then, there’s also the hockey team. A team of teenagers who could very well reach an all-important final and these boys carry all the hopes and dreams of the town residents on their shoulders. Winning could bring about so many changes, changes this town desperately needs. More and better infrastructure, jobs and tourists. It’s a lot to ask.
It’s obvious from the start of the story, there is a mystery of sorts to be pieced together. Who is putting the gun to someone else’s head and why? To be honest, I was so engrossed in the lives of the residents of Beartown, that I completely lost track of that. I wasn’t even trying to figure it out. I just let the author lead me towards that moment and enjoyed it to the fullest. The story of how they got there is incredibly captivating. Sometimes heartbreakingly sad and utterly thought-provoking, it had me absolutely gripped. Yet somehow Fredrick Backman manages to throw in some chuckle-worthy moments too and all the characters and events are believable and realistic.
This is the sort of book that just gets under my skin and it will stay with me for a long time. As it is, it’s going straight into my top 5 books of the year. A true gem, which I highly recommend and I absolutely can’t wait to go back to Beartown!
The Scandal / Beartown was published in August.