“…a remarkable new novel…[that] in some ways recalls “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” but because Maja narrates her own story, we come to know her more intimately than we do Lisbeth Salander… The story alternates between courtroom scenes and Maja’s richly detailed memories… The author, Malin Persson Giolito, carries us deep into the lives of these star-crossed lovers and the decadent society that shaped them… Giolito, who practiced law before she turned to fiction, writes with exceptional skill. She seems to know everything about Stockholm’s rich and the ways of teenage girls. Her story examines the corrosive effects of vast wealth. Even the novel’s title, “Quicksand,” suggests a world that will suck in, swallow and devour the unwary. Giolito always shows sympathy for Maja, who is variously brave, confused, self-destructive and beset by problems she doesn’t understand… always smart and engrossing. We race along to learn whether Maja’s lawyer can save her. Or whether, in fact, prison may be where she belongs. Giolito keeps us guessing a long time and the outcome, when it arrives, is just as it should be.” —The Washington Post
“Giolito’s astonishing English-language debut (she has published three other books in her native Sweden) is a dark exploration of the crumbling European social order and the psyche of rich Swedish teens. It alternates between courtroom and jailhouse scenes and life before a school shooting, telling the firstperson story of Maja, a rich-girl-accused-shooter who is perfectly portrayed as obsessed with the actions of others and simultaneously jaded beyond belief by them. Maja is said to have shot classmates in a pact with her boyfriend, and the broad details of the crime aren’t in dispute; rather the trial hinges on what exactly happened and why. In crafting a first-person narrative told by a school shooter, many authors would go too far, creating an overly likable character; Giolito masterfully walks this fine line, developing a protagonist whom readers will remain intrigued by and ambivalent about, but whom they won’t necessarily like. Giolito’s past as a lawyer and as a European Union official poke through the pages as she exposes the cutting racism that refugees in Europe endure, even in supposed left-wing-idyll Sweden. Praise must also go to translator Willson-Broyles, as the incisive language that’s on display here surely involves translation precision that’s second to none.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“Quicksand is a novel that begins like a parlor game gone awry: On its first page, a little cross section of contemporary Swedish society – a right-on homeroom teacher, a Ugandan foster child, a cashmere-clad blonde, a son of Middle Eastern immigrants – lies on the floor, splattered with blood, as if darkly satirizing the country’s self-image of civilized multiculturalism…What we’re reading here is not so much Maria’s unfiltered thoughts as her speech to an imaginary audience: Mostly we listen in as she tries to make sense of what happened, but she occasionally addresses us directly, speculating as to what assumptions we might make about her and what comfy delusions we may be harboring about ourselves. The voice is uneven, unpredictable in a way that feels characteristic of a teenager…the novel is structured as a courtroom procedural, yet it clearly has ambitions beyond that, addressing Sweden’s underlying economic and racial tensions..." — New York Times Book Review
“Quicksand is Persson Giolito's fourth novel and her first to be translated from Swedish into English. Translator Rachel Willson-Broyles smoothly renders Maja's voice, by turns cynical and yearning, hard-edged and vulnerable. Paired with a knack for deadpan dialogue, this voice presents a realistic impression of an 18-year-old woman, one charged with the most heinous crime in her country's recent memory. The strength and poignancy of Maja's nuanced voice command sympathy, even though she has--perhaps--done terrible things.
The central question of the novel is, of course, Maja's guilt or innocence…Meanwhile, Maja's story imperceptibly expands to take on larger questions and issues: class and immigration, race and racism, criminal justice systems and the media, the consequences of wealth and leisure, love and obsession, what is owed by a parent to a child. The false dichotomy of guilt and innocence plays a central role. It is to Persson Giolito's great credit that such weighty topics move smoothly through a plot that is taut and relentless, even as its protagonist passes monotonous days in a prison cell.
Quicksand is a novel focused on a school shooting, but in no way feels hackneyed or dependent on its timeliness. In fact, it's not really about a school shooting at all. It's about larger abstractions, like loyalty and codependence, love and guilt, the incredibly complicated business of being a teenager, criminal justice systems (Sweden's in particular, and as a concept), the role of the media and what a parent's job entails. Expert dialogue and irresistible momentum make an all-too-realistic story come breathing off the page. It's a novel that demands compassion, and an appreciation for the fine gradations of situations that tend to be treated as black and white. Part courtroom thriller, part introspection, Quicksand is pulled tight throughout by the suspense, not only of Maja's verdict, but of the elusive "truth" of what really happened in the classroom that day.” — Shelf Awareness
”Sharp social commentary through the tragic story of a young woman's trial for mass murder.Swedish novelist Giolito begins her English-language debut with a powerful view of a crime scene. To the narrator, 18-year-old Maja, her fellow classmates are still in the present tense, the horror not yet real. As she tells her tale we understand that she is at the center of a school shooting perpetrated by her boyfriend, Sebastian Fagerman, and the question is whether she is complicit. Both teenagers come from privileged backgrounds, she from a loving home she has no patience for, and he the son of "the richest man in Sweden," who verbally abuses him. Giolito keeps the narrative moving quickly, alternating between the present tense of Maja's jail cell and the courtroom and her memories of parties and travels with her jet-setting boyfriend, though as Maja says, "there are no chapters in this mess." That mess takes in the uneasy place of race in modern-day Sweden and the voracious press that amplifies the details of everything in Maja's young life. There is no suspense in the shooting of Amanda, Maja's best friend, or of Sebastian. She did it and admits to it. The literary anticipation here is in the telling of the tale, the facts that turn the story to something else, and yes, the verdict. The rhythm, tone, and language are just right, due in great part to the fine translation by Willson-Broyles. Giolito gives us the unsettling monologue of a teenage girl as she works her way through her role in murder. It is a splendid work of fiction.” — Kirkus Reviews
"Brilliantly conceived and executed, this extraordinary legal thriller is not to be missed by fans of the genre." — Library Journal, Starred Review
“This methodical and straightforward plotting, in the tradition of Barbara Vine, may either tantalize or frustrate American readers used to a crackling pace and a surfeit of twists. Nevertheless, Gioloto’s novel is haunting and immersive.” — Publisher's Weekly
“…Giolito’s craft takes us on a psychological ride…” — Resident Magazine
"Thrilling." — TIME Magazine
“[QUICKSAND] skillfully depicts the causes and consequences of a mass shooting, blending elements of courtroom drama, taut psychological thriller, and coming-of-age story… the central question, Giolito points out, is not so much what happened, but why it happened—a question that is deeply rooted in issues of race, privilege, and cultural values. Piecing together the stories of the shooting and its victims is Maja; with a voice that is at times peevish, petty, and remote, at others sharply perceptive and heartbreakingly vulnerable, her narration moves back and forth in time, offering bits of backstory woven into the ongoing court proceedings.” — Kirkus Reviews
“QUICKSAND is Persson Giolito’s fourth crime novel and takes its cue from a mass killing, such as the one in Norway in 2011 . . . Its main protagonist, the 18-year old,
Maja Norberg, is a popular student who survives a school rampage. Set as a flashback, prior to the gory event, the plot trails Maja’s past to find out whether she participated in the murdering. She has been accused, being the only one to survive, and waits in jail for her trial. This alone would not have been enough to get this book included in this month column. But Persson Giolito’s craft takes us on a psychological ride, where perhaps the narrator of the story is not as reliable as first thought. She met a questionable character, Sebastian Fagerman, prior to the massacre. Little by little, we can hear the cogs of her internal life flicker with strange sounds. As she is swept off her feet, alienating everyone in her immediate circle, we ponder if her outcries are not simply screams for help . . . that everyone missed.” — Books Du Jour
“QUICKSAND (Other Press Hardcover, $26.95) is a compelling, multi-layered study of a terrible school shooting, one that becomes the coming-of-age story of Maja Norberg, its 18 year old female narrator who is the sole survivor of the massacre and who now stands trial as the most hated person in all of Sweden. The suspenseful courtroom drama is meant to reveal the ‘truth’about what really happened, This psychological thriller, the first of Giolito’s four novels to be translated into English, rates as a fairly compulsive read. She is particularly incisive sketching and surveying the privileged lives of her teenagers.” — The Boston Herald
“Imagine Steig Larsson meets The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, and you’ve got a great idea of the sharp insight and cunningly skilled writing that you’re in for here, for this novel was everything that Dangerous Place was trying to be. Giolito not only weaves an incredibly incisive and pulsating story, but she also manages to tackle serious social and economic issues with stunning clarity that made me sit up and re-read her passages.”— NAVI Review
“Quicksand is a whydunit, not a whodunit. What exactly did Maja do—or not do? Seeking that answer, Persson Giolito employs the young woman in broader queries. What is “truth”? Or “justice”? How unequal can a society become while remaining stable?”— World Literature Today
Malin Persson Giolito was born in Stockholm in 1969 and grew up in Djursholm, Sweden. She holds a degree in law from Uppsala University and has worked as a lawyer for the biggest law firm in the Nordic region and as an official for the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Now a full-time writer, she has written four novels including Quicksand, her English-language debut. Persson Giolito lives with her husband and three daughters in Brussels.
Rachel Willson-Broyles majored in Scandinavian Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and received her BA there in 2002. She started translating while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received a PhD in Scandinavian Studies in 2013. Willson-Broyles lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.