Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud
The Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Bullying among children and adolescents has probably been occurring for centuries; certainly we’ve all read enough about its occurrence in British public schools throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and we’re familiar with the practice of hazing in many colleges and universities. We know about the injuries and occasional fatalities. But what do we know about the survivors of childhood bullying? The very young, pre-school age, who are daily subjected to not just the taunts, but actual physical brutality of equally young children, who should not even be capable of such? Author Carin Gerhardsen examines this very subject, in the context of pre-school bullying in Sweden, and its consequences in middle age.
Young Thomas is a pre-school victim; a couple of the children, specifically Hans and Ann-Kristin, lead the assaults against him, some of which are quite potentially dangerous (such as tying him up in a jump rope and pushing him into the road in front of an oncoming truck; pulling off his cap and pants and making him walk home without in the winter snow; and tying him to a frozen lightpost). All this and lack of emotional support at home, or protection against the constant bullying (indeed, young Thomas seems to wear an invisible “victim” tag) result in zero self-esteem, and a lifetime of both solitude and loneliness. Even in his late forties, Thomas is still often the brunt of coworkers’ pranks. Then one evening, by sheerest chance (or fate), Thomas spots one of the preschool ringleaders, now a middle-aged, self-assured, business partner with a loving and devoted family. Thomas just cannot face it-and for probably the first time in his life, he decides to act, not react-and discovers that he does indeed have power: the power to take life.
I first became interested in Scandinavian crime fiction via Lars Kepler’s “The Hypnotist” and the novels of Jo Nesbo. Carin Gerhardsen ranks in that high category also, and I anticipate further crime novels from this author, who effectively brings to life the character study so essential to good fiction.
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