Published by Samlaget, 2021
Heartbeats and slide tackles
The summer holidays have just begun. Andreas is a Liverpool supporter and everyday he looks forward to kickabouts with Sara and his other classmates. But this summer, a new boy has come to town, a boy with a United hat and a pretty smile. The new boy’s name is Viljar, and Andreas’ heart beats much faster whenever they’re together. Meanwhile, Sara keeps sending him messages filled with love hearts, and Andreas doesn’t know quite how to respond.
The Struggle is a tale of friendship, love and jealousy. But more than anything, this is a story about the 11 year-old Andreas, who during a rather challenging summer holiday is forced to learn a lot more about himself.
From the reviews:
“Newcomer Geir Egil Eiksund impresses with a broadly credible and authentic first-person child narrator. His depiction of all-encompassing infatuation and looming disaster when everything is revealed has a powerful, tangible impact on the reader.” The daily Bergens Tidende
LGBT children’s book unafraid to tackle issues head-on
Geir Egil Eiksund writes disarmingly directly about rural homophobia in a fine debut novel.
I hadn’t expected to read a children’s book where the gay protagonist is the victim of violence and harassment. Not because such things don’t happen in real life, but because this reality is rarely reflected when children are the target audience.
Summer flirtation. Geir Egil Eiksund (33) from Ørsta is a trained journalist and teacher. His first book The Struggle (Kampen) tells the story about falling truly in love for the first time, realising that you’re not straight and unwillingly stumbling out of the closet. This all happens to Andreas (11) over the course of a few weeks one summer.
He lives in a fictional village in Western Norway with Christian parents, plays the organ in church and loves Liverpool football club. When a new boy moves to the village, Andreas gets butterflies in his stomach.
The overall tone of the book is warm and solution-oriented. Eiksund uses language effectively, with good imagery well suited to the target audience, such as when Andreas is suddenly outed as gay:
“The butterflies inside me die. They fall like black stones and land hard in the bottom of my stomach.”
Harassment. The reader only gets small glimpses of homophobia, but it is undeniably startling when it rears its head as it occurs in realistic, everyday situations.
Andreas’ friendly, cool uncle Jarle is also gay. One day, the 11-year old is shocked to witness his uncle having “fag” yelled at him at the supermarket.
Later in the book, Andreas himself is standing in a queue when some older children start to get rough with him. They call him Gay Andreas, pick on him for being a Liverpool fan and tear off his shirt so he falls half-naked on the ground with a crowd looking on.
It is encouraging that the author isn’t afraid to take a stand and dares to describe this part of life.
Eiksund is also surprisingly frank when he describes the protagonist as having a physical reaction to going to the beach with the object of his affection.
“I look away. I have to put my hands over the lump in my shorts, push down so it doesn’t bulge out. I make it look like I’m scratching and sit down.”
Beautifully depicted. In other ways, the book is fascinatingly idealised. This is a world where 11-year olds spend their days outdoors playing football in the fields, swimming and hanging around in bus shelters. Video games and mobile phones are almost non-existent.
That Andreas’ Christian mother has long struggled to accept that her brother, Jarle, is gay is the darkest part of the story. Whether her lack of acceptance will have an impact on her relationship with her son goes unresolved in the book.
Geir Egil Eiksund finds a balance between the traditional and the modern. For all its seriousness, the book has an optimistic soundtrack – the Liverpool anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
The daily Aftenposten
Geir Egil Eiksund (b. 1988) is a qualified teacher and journalist. The Struggle is his first book.