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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Book Review: One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway -- and Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad, translated by Sarah Death

I decided to take a break from reading for work, and yet I still managed to read a Macmillan book! But it's an older title, which is why it counted as reading for fun and not for work. Also some people will be freaked out that I classify a book about a mass killing as "for fun," but c'mon, I'm not the only one into true crime! Also it's a translation and over 500 pages--you do your version of fun and I'll do mine!

In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik went on a rampage in Norway. Most people I've mentioned this book to are familiar with it, but I was not. Maybe in 2011 I was, but I didn't retain it at all. First he set off a bomb in Oslo, then he went to an island full of children and teens at a political camp, and killed scores and scores of them. Ms. Seierstad has done an utterly meticulous job recreating both Anders' actions and thoughts (from interviews) from his childhood up to the events themselves, in what created this monster, and how he prepared for this chilling day of massacres. Then she also recreated the day itself, minute by minute, from Anders' perspective but also following a dozen of the victims (and those she starts back a few months or a few years to make them fully developed people, and to explain why they ended up at the camp.) You feel as if you are there, but in an omniscient mode as you're able to see and understand everyone all at once. Now, when I say understand, I don't mean that you'll sympathize with Anders at all--yes, he had a problematic childhood and his parents were both jerks in a lot of ways and should never have been parents--but you certainly are aware when he goes off the rails and is no longer making sense.

And the tension in this book--it's always so impressive when a reader goes into a book knowing the outcome, and yet is on the edge of her seat with anxiety during the read. That takes masterful writing. If you like true crime at all, for example if you were riveted by the book Columbine, you should really read this one. Riveting.

This book is published by FSG/Picador, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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