Publication Date: Mar 07, 2017

432 pp

Hardcover

List Price US $26.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 978-1-59051-857-1

Ebook

List Price US $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-858-8


Quicksand is an incisive courtroom thriller and a drama that raises questions about the nature of love, the disastrous side effects of guilt, and the function of justice.

A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Maja Norberg is eighteen years old and on trial for her involvement in the massacre where her boyfriend and best friend were killed. When the novel opens, Maja has spent nine excruciating months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. But how did Maja, the good girl next door who was popular and excelled at school, become the most hated teenager in the country? What did Maja do? Or is it what she didn’t do that brought her here?

Malin Persson Giolito has written a perceptive portrayal of a young woman and a blistering indictment of a society that is coming apart. A work of great literary sensibility, Quicksand touches on class, money, emigration, and the games one plays with oneself when parents are no longer attuned to the struggles of their children.



Excerpt from Quicksand

Lying next to the left-hand row of desks is Dennis; as usual he’s wearing a graphic tee, jeans from a big-box store, and untied tennis shoes. Dennis is from Uganda. He says he’s seventeen, but he looks like a fat twenty-five year old. He’s a student in the trade school, and he lives in Sollentuna in a home for people like him. Samir has ended up next to him, on his side. Samir and I are in the same class because Samir managed to be accepted to our school’s special program in international economics and social sciences.

Up at the lectern is Christer, our homeroom teacher and self-described social reformer. His mug has overturned and coffee is dripping onto the leg of his pants. Amanda, no more than two meters away, is sitting propped against the radiator under the window. Just a few minutes ago, she was all cashmere, white gold, and sandals. The diamond earrings she received when we were confirmed are still sparkling in the early-summer sunshine. But now you might think she was covered in mud. I am sitting on the floor in the middle of the classroom. In my lap is Sebastian, the son of the richest man in Sweden, Claes Fagerman.

The people in this room do not go together. People like us don’t usually spend time together. Maybe on a metro platform during a taxi-driver strike, or in the dining car on a train, but not in a classroom.

It smells like rotten eggs. The air is hazy and gray with gunpowder smoke. Everyone has been shot but me. I haven’t got even as much as a bruise.


“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 author, Malin Persson Giolito, writes with exceptional skill. She 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 is a dark exploration of the crumbling European social order and the psyche of rich Swedish teens. …Masterful.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Brilliantly conceived and executed, this extraordinary legal thriller is not to be missed by fans of the genre.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“Powerful … A splendid work of fiction.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Haunting and immersive.” —Publishers Weekly

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, the role of the media and what a parent’s job entails. 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.” —Shelf Awareness

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 Maja’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

“After the first page, I was hooked. I kept reading as if I were hypnotized. This is an extraordinary novel, one that rises above most of what has been published in the suspense genre. […] A courtroom drama about love and class, life and death. And an unforgettable portrayal of a young girl.” —Ingalill Mossander, Aftonbladet 

“The storytelling flies with a furious page (…) Malin Persson Giolito writes as though this story is the most important of all, and she succeeds in making it feel that way.”—Sydsvenskan

“[S]he has, in short time, stepped forward as one of the country’s most interesting contemporary writers. (…) The cover of Quicksand calls it a procedural thriller. Sure, this is at times a breathlessly suspenseful novel. But there is still a risk in categorizing the book in the thriller genre – that may risk reducing the gravity with which it is written. Few recent novels have gripped me as forcefully as the final pages of Malin Persson Giolito’s Quicksand.”  —Stig Larsson, Expressen

“It’s difficult to resist Malin Persson Giolito’s courtroom thriller Quicksand. (…) It is a frightening portrayal of our time, where the distance between the adult and teenage world is a broad gulf. It is almost impossible for the two worlds to approach one another, just as it is for those who have versus those who have not. Because class divides are central in Persson Giolito’s portrayal of how this school shooting was made possible in a world where prejudice has not one, but many, faces.” —Norrbottens-Kuriren 

“It has been a very long time since I read such a beautiful portrayal of what it’s like to be young and struggling with the demands of both society, school, your parents and yourself. […] This is – without compare – the best book I’ve read so far this year. ”  —DAST Magazine 

“It’s been a long time since I read such a well-structured and well-informed story.” —Skånska Dagbladet

“A mass school shooting has taken place in a suburb of Stockholm. 18-year-old Maja Norberg is on trial for her involvement in this shocking act. Her boyfriend and her best friend are dead. The story is told mostly through what happens in the courtroom. Did Maja, a popular, privileged teenager, incite her boyfriend to commit this heinous crime, or was she merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, with no knowledge of what the shooter had planned? Quicksand is a fascinating look at modern society, class, race, and the definition of justice.” —Sharon K. Nagel, Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, WI

“Ever sine Columbine, school shootings have seemed endemic to the United States, happening way too often, always devastating and difficult to understand. When I saw this was set in Sweden I was intrigued. Maja is a senior in high school when this novel takes place but will soon find herself in prison and on trial. What did she do? What did she know, and when did she know it? Maja is our narrator and she takes us into her time before the shootings, her time in jail, her talks with her lawyers and her trial. It is an intense and extensive character portrayal of how she felt before, during, and after. It is very well done, albeit lengthy, and often intense. All the things that went wrong, things that should have and could have gone differently, people who should have interceded, authority figures who should have had more sense, but didn’t. Although I realize that this is fiction, and would not hold true in all cases, this book provided more insight into why these things happen, and the conditions that lead up to them, than any other book I have read, or any of the mental health talking heads I have watched and listened to on television. A very well done and thought out novel.” —Diane Scholl, Batavia Public Library in Batvia, IL


1. On page 291 Sander asks, “Is that who Maja is?” Who is Maja? How would you describe her?

2. What do you think of the narrator’s—Maja’s—voice? Does it change over the course of the novel? Do you think Maja’s narration of her own story attracts you to her, or are you repelled by it? How would your reaction to or understanding of Maja change if Quicksand were not told in the first person?

3. On page 109 Maja says Sebastian “refused to let go, refused to give up, refused.” Describe what her relationship with Sebastian is like. Do you think Maja felt pressure to date Sebastian? Could she have refused to date him? On page 357 Maja says Sebastian “couldn’t live without me, it was a question of life and death.” Does their relationship change as Maja reveals more of her story, or does it remain essentially the same?

4. On page 403 Maja’s mother says “Maja loved Amanda.” Do you agree with her? Why or why not?

5. What are the differences between Sebastian and Samir? Are there any instances in which Sebastian and Samir both treat Maja in the same way? Do you think Quicksand sets them up as foils to each other? What role does each play in how Maja tries to define herself?

6. Over the course of the novel Maja calls several people “stupid”—Lena Pärsson (p 92), Samir (p 203), Sebastian (p 261). She describes her parents varyingly as vain, materialistic, and overly concerned with their class position and how they are perceived by others. Why do you think she has such a cynical view of the people around her? Are there anyone who Maja sees in a good light?

7. On page 385 Maja says this of Claes, Sebastian’s father:

“Claes wasn’t ashamed, why would he be? He was never ashamed; nothing could threaten him, there was nothing he couldn’t say or do in front of the entire world.”

What are the things Maja feels shame for? How is her shame related to her feelings of guilt?

8. On page 391 Samir tells Maja “You aren’t responsible for [Sebastian].” Her mother, meanwhile, tells her “He needs you, Maja” (p 354). How are the adults around Maja and Sebastian implicated in the murders at the center of the trial? Do you think the adults in Maja’s life failed her in any way?

9. Is there a difference between what Maja thinks and narrates, and how the people around her perceive her actions? Do you trust Maja?

10. Quicksand is set in Sweden. Are there instances in which Maja’s descriptions of race and class relations are applicable to the United States?