BOOK REVIEW: ASNE SEIERSTAD – ONE OF US

norway

 

One of Us is a 21st century horror story that chronicles a tragic event from actual history. It’s a book about Anders Behring Breivik and the terrifying acts he carried out on 22 July 2011, which saw 77 Norwegians die and many more injured. This is a detailed and horrific true crime story about a searing, cold-blooded massacre.

 

This non-fiction work is by Norwegian journalist and writer, Åsne Seierstad. This is the fifth book by a writer who is no stranger to chronicling people’s lives in extreme circumstances as her previous works were about individuals living in Kabul and Chechnya. This volume is actually written like a novel and has been painstakingly researched and assembled from witness accounts, interviews, testimonies and other written works.

 

One of Us paints a portrait of Anders Breivik including his abusive and dysfunctional childhood and his adolescence where he was a graffiti tagger and hip-hop music lover. He had an obsession with belonging and being in charge or “at the top of a group”. But often he was rejected or ridiculed for having an over-inflated sense of his own self-worth and narcissistic personality.

 

As an adult Breivik became a high-school dropout and entrepreneur who was determined to get rich quick. He had a business where he sold fake diplomas and later became a recluse and computer game addict. The latter turned into a full-blown internet addiction and he’d eventually become radicalised by right wing ideas. This culminated in his dreaming up and carrying out violent and extreme acts, including making a bomb to use on a government building (this killed eight people) and murdering 77 individuals with guns (many of these victims were teenagers) at a young labour conference on the island of Utoya.

 

Seierstad also tells the stories of some of Breivik’s victims. In this way she humanises these inspiring young people and ensures that they’re remembered for more than just being a number in a long list of fatalities. These stories will haunt and stay with you, particularly the ones about the young and clever, natural-born leader, Simon Saebo and the strong and opinionated, Bano Rashid (the latter had escaped Iraqi Kurdistan with her parents and younger sister and was determined to become part of Norwegian society).

 

One of Us is a powerful and explosive book where Seierstad has done an excellent job of painting a vivid portrait of the events leading up to the monumental day as well as the actual event, the trial and the aftermath. She offers lots of background information and context to the story and this makes for an immersive and suspense-filled book that is simultaneously uncomfortable to read and hard to put down. This thorough, intense and unsettling work strikes at the very heart of the gut-wrenching tragedy. It’s positively horrific, extremely well-written and a very important story that had to be told.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/one-of-us/9151626

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