One of Us. The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad (translated by Sarah Death). Published 2013, with the English translation published in 2015.
A gripping, shattering and vital book, One of Us is the story of a massacre and a study of evil. But it is also a story about community versus isolation, hope versus rejection, love versus bigotry – and a powerful memorial to those who lost their lives.
Source: Back cover of the book
I began this book review with the words from the One of Us back cover because I struggled to find better words to summarise what I had read. It seems wrong to say I enjoyed it considering the story it shares. But it is extremely well written and I found any inclusions like information about taggers, World of Warcraft and the politics of Norway at that time had enough background information to satisfy the reader and to leave room for further research if desired.
I appreciated the sharing of the stories of some of the young people murdered on 22 July 2011. The book is a memorial to them, as much as it is the story of a mass murderer and his actions. The reader gets to know them and their families, alongside coming to know Breivik and his family. I also appreciated that the Epilogue included some of the writing processes that Seierstad utilised and in which she thanked those that contributed.
I found the comparison between the mistakes and delays in the apprehension of Breivik sadly very similar to those of 9/11. In both instances it resulted in an increase in the fatalities. Some sections of the book had me in tears, especially descriptions and/or the words of loss experienced by the parents and the ongoing suffering of the young survivors. The mistakes and delays just made me angry. I truly hope we learn the value of communication in and out of a time of crisis.
In tragic instances such as these there is often an outcry about perpetuating the “fame” of Breivik, or “cashing in” as it were on the tragedy. All the royalties in Norway received from this book were donated to the One of Us (En av oss) Foundation which distributes money to:
a wide range of causes nationally and internationally, in the areas of development, education, sport culture and the environment.
This in some way addresses those concerns. But I also believe that the way in which Seierstad approached and wrote this story in no way sensationalises the tragedy. Instead it provides a clear and concise narration that evidences the journalistic background of Seierstad.
This is a keep it because I appreciate it in the manner that I do historical texts and it really is well written. It will also earn the rating of reap it because Seierstad has written on other tragedies that I want to read.