Quicksand was sent to me by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 06/04/17
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback, 416pp
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Summed up in a word:
The concept of this book immediately grabbed me. School shootings are tragic and complicated events that are a constant modern day threat. Quicksand addresses many of the complex developments that occur leading up to one such event and how an honest, caring and sweet person could end up turning a weapon on those she loves. I was mesmerised, horrified and moved by this novel. There are intense and violent themes/imagery in Quicksand so it may not be for everybody. For those who are interesting in picking this up, Quicksand is a relevant story about mental health, abuse, emotions, becoming an adult and facing consequences.
The air is hazy and grey with gunpowder smoke. Everyone has been shot but me. I haven’t got so much as a bruise….
Is Maja a normal eighteen-year-old, the poster girl-next-door, popular and excelling at her schoolwork, caught in the middle of a terrible tragedy? Or is she the most reviled teenager in the country?
Either way, everyone knows her name. She has spent nine excruciating months in jail, awaiting trial for a mass murder that killed her boyfriend and her best friend, and now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom…
Quicksand was a completely unique read for me. To be in the head of someone involved in a school shooting was an emotional and uncomfortable experience. The novel follows the progress of a trial (Case B147/66) State Vs Maria ‘Maja’ Norberg. Maja is in prison while on trial for the murder of her classmates and teacher.
Alongside the trial, the narrative jumps back to significant points in the lead up to the shootings where we get insights into Maja’s relationships with the victims and her boyfriend Sebastian. It is revealed very early on that forensic evidence shows that Maja shot and killed both her boyfriend and best friend during the incident. The question is why? Was it intentional? Did she want them to die? Is she guilty?
Maja’s trial is certainly a historic one. The battle for her freedom is an intense affair. Maja’s lawyer believes that she is not legally responsible for anything that happened that day and sets out fiercely to defend Maja’s name. Only Maja knows what really happened that day in classroom 412 at Djursholm Upper Secondary School and why. The other half of the novel is centred around the events that proceeded the incident.
When Sebastian, the son of a high profile individual, joins Maja’s class, everyone is excited. Parties, events and connections. But underneath the surface Sebastian is suffering, he is emotionally unstable and with a father that either ignores or abuses him, his life has become empty. Maja quickly falls in love with him and they begin a turbulent and exciting relationship. In the classroom there are division lines forming and all the relationships that used to be so easy become increasingly difficult. Maja begins to feel trapped but by then it is far to late. Choices are made, emotions flare and the situation deteriorates.
I think the element that made this book great was definitely Giolito’s writing. Writing from the perspective of an 18 year-old in that particular scenario was definitely a challenge in which she succeeded perfectly. The emotional impact of the murder on Maja is really hard to gauge at the beginning of the novel due her slightly pretentious and immature attitude. The complexity of Maja’s character was revealed over the course of the novel in such a great way. Painting a full picture of events and explaining what it really takes to get to that particular situation. With big and impacting reveals that change the tone and feel of the narrative at every turn, I was completely drawn in.
The scenes involving the actual shooting are haunting. The imagery and description are something else. This is not an easy read due to the subject matter and strong themes. The tag line for Quicksand is: “You are innocent until the court has proven you are guilty” and that is the essence of the plot. The reader can judge, guess, speculate and assume, but until the court has its verdict, you truly don’t know what to think. Quicksand is a novel by a talented Swedish crime writer, but I don’t think the setting really added anything to the novel. There are economic themes that apply to some areas of the plot but nothing really that specific to Sweden.
Themes like grief, hate and violence weigh heavy on the characters. Other potent themes like true love and unpredictability affect how we view the choices they make. There are plenty of characters involved in the plot but apart from three central characters, they all seem to get lost behind all the trauma and chaos. Maja is the main event here and we spend so much time in her head. Her grief is having opposing effects on her views and she is struggling to stay afloat. Sebastian is pure chaos, rich kid with free reign and no parents to manage him. Booze, drugs and debauchery are the only thing he truly knows. Samir is smart, honest and wants to do well in life. He represents opportunity and progress. These three characters were instrumental to the plot and their dynamic was impressive.
Overall I highly recommend Quicksand but tread carefully. It was a tough time to be in the middle of one of the most relevant and modern day tragedies that shake our world. But Quicksand highlights the fact that it takes so many turns to reach that point and there is always more to the story. I have given Quicksand 4/5 stars because the subject matter was unique, the writing was impressive and though the narrative dipped in places and got slightly awkward in the middle sections, the plot was well rounded and perfectly paced.
About Malin Persson Giolito
Malin Persson Giolito was born in Stockholm in 1969 and grew up in Djursholm, Sweden. She holds a master in Swedish law from the University of Uppsala and a master in EU law from the College of Europe in Bruges. She has also studied literature, art, French, criminology, and social science at the University of Stockholm and Université Catholique de l’Est in Anger, France. She is a lawyer by training, working for Scandinavia’s largest law firm for 10 years, before joining the European Commission in late 2007 as an official specializing in Competition law. Since 2015 she has been a full time writer and is the author of four novels, Quicksand being her English language debut. She has a literary column in Sweden’s largest magazine for women, Amelia, and regularly gives talks in high schools and prisons. Malin lives with her husband and three daughters in Brussels.