Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Winners

 I don't actually like hockey, but I love a good story.  Fredrik Backman with "The Winners" (2022) uses a good story that focuses a lot on hockey.  Politics and social relationships surround any popular activity and Backman has captured the "background" activities and that in fact everything is connected.  

 This book carries on from "Beartown" (2017) http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/06/beartown.html  Beartown is a small town in a northern forest area of Sweden.  The town has focused on their hockey team as it provides some excitement as one observer points out a sport team represents the town and when they win the town wins.   It also provides opportunities for politicians and businessmen while attracting lots of social interaction.  The main character is Peter Andersson who played in 4 NHL games in Toronto!  The first book ends after a rape divides the town and forces big changes.

 The sequel "Winners" (2022)  which is many more pages picks up two years later.  There are lots of flashbacks.  Peter Andersson is still a main character, but he feels aimless while his wife, a lawyer has started her own firm in the rival town of Hed where he sort of works.  His daughter who had been raped has moved south to study music and get away from town gossip and resentment.  There are powerful people, both conventional and hoodlum who see opportunities.  Journalism is in to stir up things as well they should. 

The story is as complicated as any mystery, but goes deeper into human relationships.  Many factions wanted to leverage their power including hockey management, business men, politicians, journalists, hoodlums and of course individuals.  More noticeable in this book is a rival hockey club and town, Hed not far away and with interlocking relations apart from trying to win hockey games against each other.  The previous general manager's wife operates a legal firm in Hed and the important goalie for Beartown lives in Hed.  As the story develops there are more relationships.  The arena in Hed is destroyed in a major storm and this opens up various options.  There is concern that the clubs might merge, or that only Beartown would survive or some politicians want to end both clubs and start another one.

The conflicts of the world find their way into the narrative.  As in many countries there is cultural differences between urban and rural areas, the rich and the poor.  There is one gay character who most have accepted (he was a good hockey player), but that the rival team taunts.  There is some reference to mixed races, but again if they are good athletes they win acceptance.  The Beartown A coach is a female and she is tougher than her male colleagues.  Cheating goes on at the game level, but also political maneuvering, some of it illegal is present.  There is a Moral Dilemma (actually more than one) where one character is forced to consider unethical action to rectify an unfair situation.

On one occasion the author refers to Theseus which raised the question of if everything is replaced in an object, is it still the same object.  This author was referring to a hockey rink that had had all its pieces replaced over time.  Reminded me of an earlier blog on the same topic:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/01/ship-of-thesus.html

 What makes the story so compelling is that Backman uses very interesting dialogue, but goes beneath to provide some motivations and human observations.  Hockey is very interesting to many, but more importantly people are interesting and the author is excellent at developing our understanding.     

 Other blogs on Fredrik Backman   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/07/a-man-called-ove.html  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/04/anxious-people-by-fredrik-backman.html and  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/01/anxious-people-series.html

This book presented a new challenge for me.  Over the past few years I had fallen into the bad habits of multi tasking which involved snatch reading.  I found myself with an express book and a long waiting lineup.  It is good to concentrate on a book--time flies when you can get absorbed by a compelling story. and I would have to say this one flowed for me.

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