Book Review: A Man Called Ove

Since starting in October 2016, my book club hasn't had the best luck with choosing books. Of the four we've read so far, I liked most of one, sort of liked some of another, didn't like one, and was ambivalent about another. For March, it was suggested we read a book-to-movie and then watch the movie. After much debate we settled on A Man Called Ove...

...and I'm so thankful we did!


A Man Called Ove
By Fredrik Backman
2014
337 pages

Set in Sweden (though not at all different than what you might be used to), Ove* is your typical 'grumpy old man'. Like seriously grumpy. He lives in a residential complex and just wants to be left alone to [spoiler redacted], but his annoying neighbours (and one ragged kitty cat) keep interrupting! What's a cranky old man to do!

I LOVED this book. It was so funny, and though there's a fair bit of sadness in it, the sardonic, cynical type of humour was laugh out loud worthy. So, not funny "ha-ha", but funny "oh that's exactly how the world works except no one wants to say it because we're all too polite to tell the truth" funny. The timeline jumps between the present, and Ove's past, including much information about his relationship with his wife, and themes from many current topics such as LGBTQ, immigrant, and elderly concerns. And love. It's all about love, but not gross-out sentimental romantic love (well a little bit) but more about the love that holds various types of relationships together and makes life worth living.

“To love someone is like moving into a house," Sonja used to say. "At first you fall in love in everything new, you wonder every morning that this is one's own, as if they are afraid that someone will suddenly come tumbling through the door and say that there has been a serious mistake and that it simply was not meant to would live so fine. But as the years go by, the facade worn, the wood cracks here and there, and you start to love this house not so much for all the ways it is perfect in that for all the ways it is not. You become familiar with all its nooks and crannies. How to avoid that the key gets stuck in the lock if it is cold outside. Which floorboards have some give when you step on them, and exactly how to open the doors for them not to creak. That's it, all the little secrets that make it your home."
- Fredrik Backman , A Man Called Ove 

And so funny! Parts of the text are almost lyrical in the way they're written, which is amazing because it is originally written in Swedish. And the characters, well all of them are such...characters! It's weird to say, but I saw parts of me in Ove, and could related my current relationship to Ove's and Sonja's in certain ways. I hope I'm not quite as cranky as Ove, but also see how the relationship to good people could save us all from ourselves (my favourite quote is above, not a funny one, but super sweet). I really enjoyed Backman's style, and am looking forward to reading more of his novels. I'm also super looking forward to seeing the film because, if it's true to the novel, will make for an excellent visual experience.

Definitely pick up this book, regardless of what you usually read. It's funny and sad and happy and so worth your time!

*How do you pronouce "Ove"?

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