Beartown


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Fredrik Backman
Genres: Fiction
Read: May 2017

 

I really liked A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie was Here, but Beartown was definitely my favourite Fredrik Backman novel to date! This was quite different then his other work, but it was excellent!

This is how you do large casts. I just read Paula Hawkins’ new book, Into the Water, which had a huge cast of characters, but she did justice for none of them. Beartown has a huge number of characters as well, but it really worked in this book. The characters are slowly introduced throughout the course of the novel and their relationships to one another are clearly indicated, so it wasn’t hard to follow and I was thrilled to see a lot of who I thought would be minor characters have some really interesting stories. Every character was well realized and well developed considering how little focus some of the characters got.

The characters reminded me a little of Melina Marchetta‘s work in that they grew in ways you did not anticipate and that you grew to like characters that you didn’t like initially. This shouldn’t have been a surprise though as Backman does an excellent job at making you love slightly unlikeable characters in all his novels. I loved the way Backman would present characters in different ways depending on whose point of view you were reading and that perspective could totally change your opinion of any character. For example I loved how characters like Bobo flip-flopped throughout the entire novel – you wanted to love him and then he would disappoint you and then you would love him again.

“It doesn’t take long to persuade each other to stop seeing a person as a person. And when enough people are quiet for long enough, a handful of voices can give the impression that everyone is screaming.”

I was totally impressed with the writing in Beartown. I highlighted so many passages throughout reading the book and I was really impressed with how Backman handled the serious topics in the novel as a male writer. I don’t want to give anything away because I think it’s best to go into this book blind, but it was definitely culturally relevant and very moving.  

I found the entire novel to be very insightful into sports culture and rape culture, both of which are often largely entwined, as well as the emotions that cause us to perceive things the way we do. It was a great novel about family, friends, sportsmanship, winning, and community (among many other things). There was so much going on in this book and so many different themes explored alongside the main theme.

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”

Definitely recommend this one for everyone! There was no part of this novel that I disliked and I think anyone can relate to the story.

Advertisements

Little Fires Everywhere

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Celeste Ng
Genres: Fiction
Read: Oct. 2017

 

Celeste Ng is at it again!! I loved her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, and she totally blew me away again with Little Fires Everywhere. In fact, I liked this one even better than her debut novel!

Like Everything I Never Told You, this is a slow-paced, character driven novel. Ng spends time on every single one of her characters, showing us their dreams and fears, their strengths and flaws. At times the characters are so frustrating, but they are always fascinating.

There’s a lot going on in this book. The Richardson family, with their four children, have lived their entire lives in the Shaker Heights community just outside of Cleveland. Shaker Heights prides itself on being a planned city and regulates everything about the city, from the colour you can paint your house, to the time you’re allowed to go trick-or-treating, to when and how often teens receive sex-ed classes in school.

Struggling artist Mia and her daughter Pearl have just moved to Shaker Heights and are renting from the Richardson’s. Without meaning to, their lives become incredibly intertwined with the Richardson’s and as the story unravels, we learn that everyone has their secrets and that with so many secrets, it’s hard to stop all the little fires from spreading.

Ng weaves questions of class and race throughout the novel that really bring her characters and her setting to life. Shaker Heights has always maintained their mantra that they “don’t see colour”, but when a court case arises around the custody of a young Asian child, the community is polarized and it becomes harder to deny that despite what everyone says, race and class still matter.

This novel felt almost like a Shakespearean tragedy. Everyone is so consumed with their own lives and secrets – trying to contain their personal fires – that the plot felt like an out of control train barrelling towards a broken bridge. The people inside the train are so caught up in their own drama that they don’t even realize they’re careening towards their impending doom.

But I loved every second of it. Ng’s writing is what makes this such a huge win. Not only has she written a fascinating drama and character study, but she has penned some truly beautiful prose. There is a lot of depth to this story and I would definitely recommend this book!