By: Fredrik Backman
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster CA
Winning a junior ice hockey championship might not mean a lot to the average person, but it means everything to the residents of Beartown, a community slowly being eaten alive by unemployment and the surrounding wilderness. A victory like this would draw national attention to the ailing town: it could attract government funding and an influx of talented athletes who would choose Beartown over the big nearby cities. A victory like this would certainly mean everything to Amat, a short, scrawny teenager who is treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice; to Kevin, a star player just on the cusp of securing his golden future in the NHL; and to Peter, their dedicated general manager whose own professional hockey career ended in tragedy.
At first, it seems like the team might have a shot at fulfilling the dreams of their entire town. But one night at a drunken celebration following a key win, something happens between Kevin and the general manager’s daughter—and the next day everything seems to have changed. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. With so much riding on the success of the team, the line between loyalty and betrayal becomes difficult to discern. 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.
Fredrik Backman knows that we are forever shaped by the places we call home, and in this emotionally powerful, sweetly insightful story, he explores what can happen when we carry the heavy weight of other people’s dreams on our shoulders.
I read A Man Called Ove (review) last year and greatly enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to read his other books, but in the meantime I kindly received an advanced reading copy of his latest novel, Beartown. This book will be available on 25 April 2017.
So You Want to Read… is a monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! 🙂
I was pondering for a while as to who to feature for this March edition of “So You Want to Read…” I sometimes schedule posts based on the time of year, what holidays are coming up, etc. It took a bit of pondering, but in the end I decided to go with Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and writer from the 19th century. I first encountered his works when I was in Grade 12 high school and took a philosophy course. It was his concept of the leap of faith that solidified my interest in his works, and since then had been slowly getting around to reading his works. The list might not appeal to everyone has his works can lean heavily on spiritual philosophy and what people nowadays see as an early form of psychology, but nonetheless I find he quite acutely pinpoints some realities about the human condition in an eloquent and rational way.
So, to anyone interested in reading a bit of philosophy for a change and have always wanted to check out Kierkegaard’s works, here’s my recommendation on where to start:
- The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion (review) — Possibly the most easily accessible of all of his works, this particular work of his is especially timely in with the current political climate as he discusses about the mass media and its role in shaping society and the public’s response to information. There is a latter essay included in this collection, “Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle,” which may initially strike readers as an odd addition but it does make sense as to why it was paired with “The Present Age.” Anyhow, I strongly recommend starting here for first-time Kierkegaard readers to get a flavour of his writing and thought processes.
- Either/Or (the first part at least) — This book is actually a collection of essays and writing fragments. I recommend reading the first bit as they’re merely a collection of thoughts that Kierkegaard has about life, the human condition, love, etc. They’re interesting and incredibly astute; I found myself nodding my head for much of this segment as I agreed with many of the conclusions he came to about life.
- The Sickness Unto Death — Okay, it was a toss-up between this book and Fear and Trembling. Both I think are equally famous when you think Kierkegaard but while the latter is shorter, The Sickness Unto Death may appeal more as his discussions serve as some predecessor to psychology and a deep analysis of the self, of despair, of the human condition and the mental process. Like most of his writings, a lot of his ideas are still deeply rooted to Christian theology but his conclusions are nonetheless interesting and the material he uncovers along the way fascinating.
And that’s my list! I hope it helps if you’re interested in reading something by Soren Kierkegaard for the first time! 🙂
The English Teacher
By: Yiftach Reicher Atir
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
After attending her father’s funeral, former Mossad agent Rachel Goldschmitt empties her bank account and disappears. But when she makes a cryptic phone call to her former handler, Ehud, the Mossad sends him to track her down. Finding no leads, he must retrace her career as a spy to figure out why she abandoned Mossad before she can do any damage to Israel. But he soon discovers that after living under cover for so long, an agent’s assumed identity and her real one can blur, catching loyalty, love, and truth between them. In the midst of a high-risk, high-stakes investigation, Ehud begins to question whether he ever knew his agent at all.
In The English Teacher, Yiftach R. Atir drew on his own experience in intelligence to weave a psychologically nuanced thriller that explores the pressures of living under an assumed identity for months at a time.
I came across this book randomly–either from a newsletter from Penguin or a related book website or from Twitter–and the premise and the fact that it was translated from Hebrew was what caught my attention. It sounded like a fascinating read so I picked it up.
(This isn’t the book cover of my edition/the North American edition but I couldn’t find a hi-res version of the book cover I have)
The Frozen Heart
By: Almudena Grandes
Format/Source: Paperback; my own copy
In a small town on the outskirts of Madrid, a funeral is taking place. Julio Carrion Gonzalez, a man of tremendous wealth and influence in Madrid, has come home to be buried. But as the family stand by the graveside, his son Alvaro notices the arrival of an attractive stranger—no one appears to know who she is, or why she is there. Alvaro’s questions deepen when the family inherits an enormous amount of money, a surprise even to them. In his father’s study Alvaro discovers an old folder with letters sent to his father in Russia between 1941 and 1943, faded photos of people he never met, and a locked grey metal box. The woman is Raquel Fernandez Perea, the daughter of Spaniards who fled during the Civil War. From the provincial heartlands of Spain to the battlefields of Russia, this is a mesmerizing journey through a war that tore families apart, pitting fathers against sons, brothers against brothers, and wives against husbands. Against such a past, where do faith and loyalty lie?
At long last, everyone, I have read it, I have read Almudena Grandes’ The Frozen Heart. It only sat on my TBR pile and my bookshelf for a couple years…Kept meaning to pick it up but as the book spans a good 800 pages, you really need to carve out a bit of time to just focus on this book. But anyway, I finally did it, finally picked it up 🙂
The Poisoned Crown (The Accursed Kings #3)
By: Maurice Druon
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
A crown is a poisonous thing…
After having his first wife murdered and his mistress exiled, the weak and impotent King Louis X of France becomes besotted with the lovely and pious Princess Clemence of Hungary.
Having made her his new queen, and believing the succession assured, Louis foolishly embarks upon an ill-fated war against Flanders.
The kingdom needs an Iron King. But where his father, Philip IV, was strong, Louis is feeble. Surrounded by ruthlessly ambitious nobles, Including Robert of Artois and his monstrous aunt, Mahaut, Louis will find himself a lamb amongst wolves.
And here we are, The Poisoned Crown. This is the last book I have of the series right now on my TBR pile as I haven’t picked up the rest of the series, but it’s good to read this series straight while the characters are still fresh in your mind. Contains some mild spoilers ahead!