Fredrik Backman – The Winners

Fredrik Backman – The Winners

A lot of time has passed since the tragic events of Beartown. Maya Andersson and Benji Ovich have left the village to start a new life somewhere else, the rest of the inhabitants has found a way of either forgetting or ignoring. But now they are threatened by a storm and a fateful series of events brings people home, opens up old wounds and creates new ones. Beartown as its rival village of Hed will never be the same again, they all will have changed and one person’s life especially will be determined by the events of only a very short time.

I have read almost all novels by Fredrik Backman and yet, I am overwhelmed each time and even though I am all but prone to extreme emotion, I can’t help crying while reading his stories. From the first two books settled in the Swedish village of Beartown (The Scandal/Beartown and Us against you, I knew what to expect from “The Winners” and was somehow prepared, but nevertheless, the author managed to trigger something in me.

Maybe it is the characters who are the most normal people one can imagine, who have their good and caring sides as well as the others which would much rather be hidden. Maybe it is the setting in an unknown village somewhere in the forest which nobody has ever heard of. It is the maximum of normalcy that we encounter in this trilogy and that makes you feel at home and bond with the characters immediately.

Backman’s masterful foreshadowing gives a glimpse in what is to come, it only hints at the upcoming tragedies and thus raises suspense which keeps you reading on, unable to put the book aside. You know that something really dreadful, horrible is waiting at the end and yet, just like life goes on you continue until you reach that moment where you are hit with a hammer.

I am lacking the words to adequately convey what the novel did to me, to describe the experience of reading and after the last page, of leaving this wonderful story. Backman is an exceptional author and his Beartown series is an exceptional read.

Fredrik Backman – The Scandal/Beartown

fredrik-backman-the-scandal
Fredrik Backman – The Scandal

A small town in northern Sweden. There is not much that connects the people in Beartown, it is too small and too insignificant to be known beyond the town’s limits. Yet, when the junior hockey boys win the semi-finals, for the first time in history, something big can happen. Beartown has always been a hockey town, if you don’t play, you are nobody. If you are not connected somehow with the local club, you are an outsider. Peter is the manager of the club and of course his wife Kira and their kids Maya and Leo also have to live for the club. Coach David has raised a generation of winners and with this junior team, they can finally pick the fruits of many years of hard work. But one evening will change everything, old friendships and loyalties will be tested, values will be questioned. The town will never be the same when the scandal comes to light.

I have read novels by Fredrik Backman before and really like his style and his eye for the detail in creating singular characters. However, “The Scandal” is so much more than interesting characters at a crucial moment of their life, it is the portrait of a community, the study of an average small town and the way these places work and how the individual is just a small cog in the machine. Admittedly, I also wouldn’t ever have imagined that a novel about ice hockey could be interesting, but it is.

First of all, the structure of the novel is full of suspense. You get to know the small town, all the important people, logically connected to the club, yet, the narrator warns you quite early that something is about to change everything, that things are not going to stay the way they are.

We have the kids, the boys playing hockey, friendships based on doing sports together, on being in a team, on standing in for one another. We have the girls who only play a minor role in the public opinion since they do not play hockey, there is no girls team, they are just a reward for the successful player, an accessory to decorate oneself with. We have the functional and the dysfunctional families, the rich and the poor, the local heroes and prestigious and the outsiders whom everybody ignores. Beartown is just like any small town anywhere in the world.

When the scandal finally becomes known, people have to take sides and have to admit to their values: is winning with the club more important than the individual’s fate? Whose side do you take, whom do you believe? What are you willing to give up and risk for a hockey team? Many are ready to forget long-time friendships, to forget their ideals, to place success before justice. It is impressive how Backman traces the development of the mood in town, how the machine finally starts and how opinions are formed.

Actually, it is not a novel about hockey. It is a novel about you and me and the question what is important in life and what you are willing to do to defend your principles or to be successful.