Beartown

Beartown Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Fredrik Backman's Beartown. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman grew up in Helsingborg, Sweden, a suburb of Stockholm. His first novel, A Man Called Ove, originated in material he first published on his blog for Swedish magazine Café, and despite many initial rejections from publishers, it quickly became an international success, being made into a movie in 2015. At the time it was published, Backman, a college dropout, had been working night shifts as a forklift driver in a warehouse, writing during the day. His subsequent books include My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, and nonfiction title Things My Son Needs to Know About the World. Backman and his wife, Neda, have two children.
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Historical Context of Beartown

The novel’s portrayal of the tremendous popularity of Swedish youth hockey is based on reality. Unlike in the United States, where young hockey players might try out for a variety of different teams or leagues over the years, Swedish youth hockey is strongly community-based, especially in smaller towns like the fictional Beartown. Athletes often grow up playing with the same group of friends, from their earliest skating classes until they reach the junior and professional levels years later. Because of its emphasis on developing strong playing skills from youth upward, Sweden has sent a disproportionate number of players to North America’s National Hockey League, the dream destination of many young players in Beartown—about 10% of the NHL’s players grew up in Sweden. It’s also worth noting that, although Beartown’s publication preceded it by a year, Maya Andersson’s storyline calls to mind the #MeToo movement against sexual assault. The movement began virally on social media in October of 2017, as an attempt to spread awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Sweden’s own King Carl XVI Gustaf encouraged victims to share their stories, citing the movement as a positive step for Swedish society.

Other Books Related to Beartown

Like Beartown, Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel Speak also features an artistic heroine who finds herself an outcast and summons the courage to tell the truth after a sexual assault. Daniel James Brown’s 2013 nonfiction work, The Boys in the Boat, also touches on the role of sports—in this case, rowing in the Depression-era United States—in building community identity and pride. The second novel in Backman’s Beartown series, Us Against You, was released in March of 2019; it continues the story of Beartown hockey’s struggle to survive and its growing rivalry with nearby Hed.
Key Facts about Beartown
  • Full Title: Beartown (Björnstad in Swedish)
  • Where Written: Sweden
  • When Published: 2016 in Swedish; 2017 in English
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Realistic fiction
  • Setting: The fictional town of Beartown, Sweden
  • Climax: Maya confronts Kevin with a shotgun
  • Antagonist: Kevin Erdahl
  • Point of View: Alternating third-person

Extra Credit for Beartown

Björnstad on Screen. As of 2019, Swedish production company Filmlance is adapting Beartown as a five-episode television series which will air on HBO Europe.

In Hockey’s Heartland. Fredrik Backman shared with his fans that, although he tries not to care about bestseller lists, one of his biggest achievements as a writer is the warm reception of the Beartown books in hockey-obsessed Canada.