Sunday, 5 November 2017

One Of Us: Anders Breivik by Asne Seierstad

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad
First published in Norwegian in Norway in November 2013. English language translation by Sarah Death published by Virago in March 2015.

One of my WorldReads from Norway

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On 22 July 2011 Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 of his fellow Norwegians in a terrorist atrocity that shocked the world. One of Us is the definitive account of the massacres and the subsequent trial. But more than that, it is the compelling story of Anders Breivik and a select group of his victims. As we follow the path to their inevitable collision, it becomes clear just what was lost in that one day.

Having been as shocked as the rest of the world by the horrific attacks on Oslo and Utoya, I was keen to read this account by Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad. Interestingly, she is known for her reports from troublespots around Europe and the Middle East and never thought she would be called upon to write similar material about her own country.

One Of Us is incredibly well researched. Seierstad sat through Breivik's trial and read all those documents. She also read his own manifesto and other writings, studied police reports, and conducted extensive interviews with his surviving victims, their families, and people who had known Breivik in his youth. The resulting book is a clever blend of biography and journalism written in a style that is more usually associated with fiction. However everything here is saddeningly and shockingly true. At over 500 pages, this is a longer work than I would usually choose, but it kept me engrossed from beginning to end. We learn not only about Breivik's past, but are also given fascinating portrayals of several of his victims - a Kurdish family who had escaped Iraq, a Norwegian teenager destined to fly high in the Labour Party and others. One Of Us isn't really a book to 'enjoy' as such but admirably rewards its readers' time. The attention to detail is amazing and the book always feels respectful even though sections such as the day of the massacre itself are emotionally difficult to read. Some aspects of the disaster have depressingly obvious causes - lack of police communication in the immediate aftermath of the bomb - others will probably never be completely understood - what ultimately triggered Breivik and why - but I feel that One Of Us goes a long way towards explaining such an in-depth subject to a general readership.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Asne Seierstad / Reportage / Books from Norway


  1. this book sounds powerful! not surprised you were so hooked to it! Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. It's so well researched and very readable, despite exploring such a horrific subject