On 22 July 2011, five years ago yesterday, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb in Oslo’s government buildings killing 8 people then massacred 69 teenagers attending a political summer camp. This is the story of what led him to these actions, often told in his own words.
But it is also the story of those he murdered, from the lawyer out for a jog a couple of days before his first child was to be born, to the teenagers and those caring for them at the summer camp.
Based on extensive testimonies and interviews, One of Us is the definitive account of the life of Anders Breivik, the massacres and the subsequent trial. Woven between this is the stories of those lives he would tear apart. It reads almost like a book of short stories at first, but all the time you know the threads are being pulled tighter together and the result will be a shroud not a blanket.
As there were so many tragedies born that day, only some of their stories could be told but at least Åsne Seierstad does the best she can to make sure they are not forgotten or turned into nameless numbers.
It is described as ” a gripping, shattering and vital book … 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.”
It is indeed a powerful memorial to them, I wish the author had more time and room for them still, as it was she could only tell fragments of most of their stories. But this is not a criticism, it was good that she told as much as she did and it is clear she did so with the greatest respect and sensitivity. In truth I’m not sure I could have coped with much more, as it was I was sobbing.
It is also a thorough dissection of the socio-economic and political climate of Norway during Breivik’s life and it looks closely at the psychological factors that may have contributed to his actions. Seierstad does not offer any trite, neatly packaged solutions for this terrible act, nor does she ignore or belittle Breivik’s own arguments that he is a freedom fighter and that he committed his brutal acts to prevent a larger loss of life. Instead she showed the painfully human consequences of disenfranchisement.
5 bites, but all for the victims and their families-not a single one of them for the murderer.