*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever had to write… Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic but NO JOKE I had trouble with this one and I’m so frickin nervous about sharing my thoughts guys. Part of this comes down to the fact that I had a lot of mixed feelings about the book and still felt the desire to rate it:
I know that a lot of what follows will be confusing and I guarantee some people will walk away dissatisfied with my position here- either because they feel I shouldn’t voice my opinion in response to this book or because they won’t consider me strident enough in my rating. It’s really a lose lose situation for me, I must say, but I don’t think pre-emptive irritation is something I should take out on what was in fact a very well written book.
Because I was impressed by a lot of it. Kudos to the author, he’s very skilled and I was immediately blown away by the writing. There were so many layers to the story and characters that I found myself easily wrapped up in it. I am always admiring of books that can transport me so fully to a place you would never discover on your own- and Beartown felt a million miles away and yet so close to home. The characters felt beautiful and authentic. I could sense the serious issues lurking under the ice, ready to crack at any moment and I appreciated the chills that tension gave me. It was a little on the slow side and it took a while to get to the “I really can’t put this down” part, but that was okay, I could see this getting 4.5-5 bananas from me.
And then the scandal hit, at around 50% of the way in, and I started to have problems. I had some, shall we say, philosophical differences with the questions it raised and the answers it appeared to direct the reader towards. It began to feel borderline propagandistic, with lines from actual political campaigns plastered into the plot in a very noticeable way. But before we get into what that was, I’m going to politely ask the easily offended to *look away*, or just people who don’t want SPOILERS, and dubbing this section from here on out “You Asked For It”- where I explain, as comprehensively as I am able, my issues with said political elements. After all, if you’re entering the political arena… well then you can expect some differing opinions.
You Asked For It AKA The Spoiler Section
What I dislike most about this book is what it’s forcing me to do now. I’ve specifically stated before that I *do not* want this blog to turn political. Unfortunately, art is increasingly entering that sphere and I find myself in the position where I have no choice but to voice my opinion. So here we go. I very much support the concept of due process and don’t appreciate attempts to subvert it. As sympathetic as you can be to individuals who have to go through this, the rule of “innocent until proven guilty” must prevail, even with regards to rape cases (as in this book), otherwise there will only be a perversion of justice. In this book, however, the fact that the perpetrator is treated as innocent and the crime investigated is shown to be an injustice. The messaging being, perhaps innocent until proven guilty is not such a good idea…
For that reason, this book skirted verrry close to a moral line for me. Ultimately, the police questionings, supposed to be viewed as cruel, switched on the purely logical side of my brain instead. Let me be frank: you need to interrogate both the alleged perpetrator and victim in order to establish whether a crime took place. I don’t see “they’re just doing their job” as callous in this context, as the book seemed to imply, because it is exactly right that the legal system relies on evidence-based conclusions. There is no way to circumvent that without becoming unjust yourself. Lines like “that’s not the sort of thing you lie about” are unhelpful in uncovering the truth and this book did not succeed in changing my mind. No doubt the emotive circumstances of the book will be effective for the “listen and believe” camp. Yet I cannot say I found this book personally convincing. Nor was it educational. With that in mind, I can only think that this book will be useful in bolstering some casual confirmation bias for people in both camps.
Ugh, powder keg of opinions coming my way I presume. Please do try to be civil in the comments.