#Bookreview ‘One of Us’ by Åsne Seierstad (@AsneSeierstad). A disturbing and touching account of true horror

  • Title: One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway
  • Author: Åsne SeierstadSarah Death (Translator)
  • File Size: 1208 KB
  • Print Length: 545 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374277893
  • Publisher: Virago (March 5, 2015)
  • Publication Date: March 5, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00PS665GY
One of Us by Åsne Seierstad Paperback
One of Us by Åsne Seierstad Paperback

Thanks to Net Galley and to the publishers, Virago, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is an extraordinary book. Like most of us, I remember the news of Anders Behring Breivik’s terrible attack that killed seventy seven people in Norway, in what later became clear had been an ultra-conservative terrorist attack. I remember reading accounts written by the survivors and some of the articles trying to provide some sort of explanation, at the time. But when I saw the book I realised I had lost track of what had happened next, and having worked as a forensic psychiatrist for some years I was particularly intrigued.

The book achieves many things. It’s an accurate account of the events of that fateful day (22nd July 2011), or as accurate as it is possible to gather. It also studies the information available to provide background as to the biography and development of Breivik, although it does not purport to provide an explanation or even a hypothesis as to the reasons for his actions, but readers are free to agree or disagree with the various opinions expressed by the experts. Thanks to the interview the writer obtained with Breivik’s mother, we also get background as to the circumstances of his birth and his early childhood.  Although the nature of some of the information might be subjective, Seierstad tries to use different sources, like school and child psychologist reports, to ensure that the account is not one-sided. The book also describes, at times in excruciating detail, the changes in Breivik’s thoughts and motivations; his writing of his manifest, and later the execution of his plan. I was worried at times by the amount of detail provided (although I’m aware that there are many sources to find out how to make a bomb, more or less easily available) but I can see how that helps paint a clearer picture of the functioning of Breivik’s mind. And, to me, the most successful achievement of the book is the inclusion of the victims and their families, in some cases in more detail than others (that is down to the cooperation and the feelings of the families involved), but all as individuals. If to Breivik they were only Marxists in the making, to us they are individuals, mostly young people, generous, fun-loving, sporty, karaoke singing, and beautiful.

The breadth and depth of investigation is outstanding, the variety of sources and the seamless interweaving of the different strands of the story, different settings, countries, cultures, political beliefs, is an achievement in its own right. I discovered things I didn’t remember having heard about (like the many mistakes made by the Norwegian police and the national security forces) and at times I felt I was there, a powerless observer, unable to warn or help, and hoping against all hope.

Apart from informing me of many facts I didn’t know, what One of Us achieves, in my opinion, is to touch the heart of the reader and to help keep the memory of those who died that day very much alive. A very touching book that made me feel, if not a part of the tragedy (although yes, I felt that too), that perhaps I, we, could all be part of the solution. Not for the faint-hearted.

As a side-note, as a psychiatrist I could not help but keep pondering about possible diagnoses for Breivik, but without first-hand knowledge I’ll reserve my opinion (he clearly displays traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but the rest is not quite as straight-forward).

One of Us by Åsne Seierstad Hardback cover
One of Us by Åsne Seierstad Hardback cover

Realistic Characterization: 5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.4/5
Readability: 4.5/5
Recommended: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5

Buy it at: 

Thanks so much for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and click. 

Olga Núñez Miret




#BookReview. Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight by Jo Robinson (@jorobinson176). Creativity and Friendship as Weapons of Liberation

Hi all:

I’ve been catching on some of the books I had pending, and as I’ve finally got around to reading one by our fantastic Jo Robinson, I had to share. Here it is:

Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight by Jo Robinson
Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight by Jo Robinson

Title:  Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight

Author:  Jo Robinson



Published:  21st December 2014

Pages:  230

Genre:  Spirituality, Personal development, genre fiction

Donna, the protagonist of this novel, has been married for over thirty years to Marco, a horrible man who has made her believe she’s unstable and unworthy of anybody’s love or attention. Their daughter, Shelley, was packed to boarding school and has avoided the family home ever since. Donna has managed to survive thanks to a huge garden (partly the land of an old farmhouse) and her renewed interest in Horticulture. Researching heritage tomatoes she stumbles upon information that makes her believe perhaps her disastrous and unhappy marriage (at least for her. Her husband seems to get all he needs from the relationship and other relationships) is not her fault. And her husband’s behaviour might not be unique either. She discovers malignant narcissistic personality disorder.

Jo Robinson creates a unique set of characters and a beautifully nuanced novel of sensations and feelings out of a story that might sound familiar (I think many people who read the novel will perceive similarities between the couple in the book and some people they know, if not in the detail, at least in the essence). Despite that familiarity, the immediacy of the story (although it is told in the third person, we see everything that happens from Donna’s point of view, live her anxieties, panic, feel her frustrations, and finally, her hopes and achievements), the elements of surprise (Donna keeps some cards under her sleeve), the sympathetic and likeable characters (except for Marco), and the overall optimism of a book that shows the positive effects of creativity (gardening in this instance) and friendship make it highly recommended.

The pace of the book changes from slow and meditative at the beginning (when, like the character, we live inside of her head, in fear of what might happen if we dare to tread outside of Donna’s house and insular life) to fast-paced and full of adventures, danger and varied characters at the end. The novel flows well and we engage and root for the main character. The ending is satisfying and the novel is a pleasurable read.

Although this is a work of fiction, it reminded me of Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens in its love for alternative ways of finding one’s calling and life-affirming creativity.

Having read the author’s blog and now one of her novels, I can’t wait to read more of her writing. I expect more fascinating topics and engrossing stories.

As a side note, I’m a psychiatrist, and narcissistic personality disorder is one of the well-described personality disorders in several psychiatric classifications. Most psychiatrists would distinguish between mental disorders and mental illnesses. Personality disorders manifest themselves as a series of traits of an individual’s personality (as such they appear from a young age, and continue to manifest themselves, in most cases, throughout the person’s life). They are considered disorders when they have a negative impact on the life of either the person, others who relate to them or often both, and in most cases are extreme manifestations of characteristics that a lot of people might share. Among other personality disorders are: borderline personality disorder, paranoid, obsessive, depressive, anxious, antisocial…Mental illnesses are mental disorders too, although those appear at a certain point in life and like other illnesses can last for a period of time and get better (with treatment in most cases, although some mental illnesses run a chronic course and it’s more difficult to be specific as to when they are “cured”. It is usually possible to recall a time before the illness became manifest). People suffering from personality disorders might present with short-lived pseudo-psychotic symptoms (delusions or hallucinations), although in the case of Marco there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that (or at least Donna does not describe delusions or hallucinations). It is likely though that if we scored Marco using the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist-Revised) he would score above the cut-off point for psychopathy, although this is not a specific psychiatric diagnosis.

Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Readability: 5/5
Recommended: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5

Buy it at:  Amazon
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  $8.99 

Kindle: $ 3.91

Thanks for reading and if you ‘ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and click!

Olga Núñez Miret






%d bloggers like this: