A Man Called Ove – A Review

Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman

Some books leave you in a warm fuzzy haze that stays like a happy feeling in your heart for a long time. A Man called Ove did that to me.

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This is the story.. 

…. of 59 year old Ove. He is the quintessential angry old man, a confirmed cynic who trusts few, believes in nothing and loves no one – or so it seems. The one person he loved was his wife. He talks to her at her grave as he waits to joins her in the next world. Even as he is planning to hasten his entry into that next world, a young family comes to stay in his neighbourhood. That’s when his plans begin to go awry and suddenly he seems to have no control over his life. He doesn’t change. Men like Ove never do. So how does an irritating, unpleasant, foul mouthed old man find himself, not just friends, but an entire family who refuse to leave him alone?

What I loved

I’ve seen old men like Ove – men who are forever critiszing the ‘system’, writing lengthy complaint letters, pulling up people for not doing things just so. I’ve seen them. And yet Ove is special because beneath the constant grumpiness and the name-calling lies something else – something so endearing and kind and funny that you cannot but love him, perhaps like a beloved angry old grandfather.

I’m gushing, I know, but I did like him. I loved Ove’s love for his wife. That’s what got my attention first. We get to read their story much later, but I liked that he talks to her all the time. All he does is complain, of course, but he talks. He haggles obstinately with the flower seller but he never fails to take her flowers.

Other than that, what made Ove likeable is that he has a kind heart. He might curse and rant but he cannot stop himself from lending a hand when people need him. He cannot bring himself to be outright cruel even to the dog who pees at his door step everyday.

What’s more, there are other characters to love and hate in the book. There’s the very bossy and very pregnant Parvaneh, her extremely clumsy husband Patrick, Ove’s neighbour, friend and enemy, Rune, and so very many more. Ove makes up his own rude names for people he meets – The Lanky One, The Pregnant One, the lunchbox eater, Blonde Weed and so on.

The writing is beautiful – in bits insightful and funny. You want to read, re-read and savour bits of it. I ended up highlighting and saving away half the book. Do read the lines I’ve picked out and you’ll know what I mean.

On Ove and his wife:

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”

On his falling out with his best friend

Maybe their sorrow over the children that never came should have brought the two men closer. But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.

True, isn’t it?

And a funny one:

“He must be close to six and a half feet tall. Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.” 

And I’ve saved the best for the last.

Her laughter catches him off guard. As if it’s carbonated and someone has poured it too fast and it’s bubbling over in all directions. It doesn’t fit at all with the gray cement and right-angled garden paving stones. It’s an untidy, mischievous laugh that refuses to go along with rules and prescriptions.

Final thought:  Gladly, unhesitatingly five shining stars to this one. Do read it.

 

The man behind the book

Like I do for most books I fall in love with, I looked up Fredrik Backman, the Swedish author of this book. In case your curiosity is piqued too you can check out this article here. It’s worth a read.

When you forget

I fell in love with its cover design when I first saw it and had been planning on reading A Forgotten Affair by Kanchana Banerjee for a long time. Finally, I’m doing just that. Here’s a bit from the book for Teaser Tuesday – the brain child of Should Be Reading.

Do watch out for the review.

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‘I’ve forgotten everything…… maybe that has happened for a reason,’ she said. ‘Maybe I needed to forget it all, so that I could see something else clearly. Sometimes… sometimes you need to forget everything to recognise what matters most.’

 

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Jugnu – A Review

Title: Jugnu
Author: Ruchi Singh

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Jugnu by Ruchi Singh reminded me what absolute joy a well-written romance can be. Yet, to call this one just a romance would a bit of an injustice. While a love story is central to the narrative there is lots more to enjoy and savour.

The story

Out on parole Zayd Abbas Rizvi heads off to Kasuali with his laptop for some peace and quiet. The plan is to keep to himself and avoid trouble of any kind. He finds lodging at a guest house run by the petite, ghost-chasing, sad-eyed Ashima, mom to a delightful three year old. Soon enough he forms bonds not just with Ashima but also with other residents of the guest house. And then quite unavoidably, he gets embroiled in their affairs even as he tries to figure out the truth about Ashima’s husband.

My Review

To begin with I loved the setting of the book – the quiet, picturesque hill town of Kasuali. I find the setting matters to me… a lot – it  predisposes me to like or dislike a book and here it is just perfect for what the author has in store.

Like I mentioned, Jugnu isn’t just a love story. It is also the tale of two individuals with each of their stories so well written that you would want to reach out for a prequel, or maybe two. I would have liked to know the Ashima before she met Zayd, her life with Rohit and also the Zayd in his earlier life, his troubled childhood, his life with his girlfriend and his prison experiences. However, all we get are intriguing mentions that leave us asking for more.

Other than the protagonists, there are a host of other characters, each lovingly crafted, each likeable and/or relatable.

What I liked best about the book was that unlike most new age romance novels with their insta-love tracks, the love story here builds slowly and steadily. Stilted conversations move on to shared silences and from there to a gradual appreciation of each other – from indifference, to friendship to love. That is perhaps what made it believable. And of course there also was just the barest touch of romantic magic. The love story retains its charm without taking away from the intensity of either of the protagonists’ previous relationships – that couldn’t have been easy to write.

Beyond the characters there are enough twists and turns in this well-woven story to keep you happily turning the pages.

Endnote: This one is a refreshing wholesome romance perfect for a rainy day. I say pick it up.

Disclaimer: I was given a kindle copy of the book by the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

An unlikely friendship #Teaser Tuesday 7

Joining in for Teaser Tuesday after a long time, hosted by Should Be Reading. Here’s an excerpt from my current read Jugnu by Ruchi Singh. I’m almost done with the book and it’s proving to be a good one. I hope to have a review up before the weekend. Do drop by for a read.

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Can’t we talk?” he said after a couple of minutes of staring at the twinkling lights in the village. An urge to talk to a living being who was not a fellow prisoner or a sneering guard took him by surprise.

 

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Books and Memories

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Books and reading formed a huge part of my childhood and for that I shall always be grateful. I had no clue then, that my stolen moments with this favourite hobby would one day offer me a second chance at a career.

To our extreme good fortune our father was friends with the owner of Universal , the biggest bookshop of the city back then. So we would get brand new books on loan, to be read and returned. I lost myself in those large glossy pages or the super glamorous pop-up books. I had one of Goldilocks that I haven’t been able to get over even now. Reading them once always left me wanting more. I didn’t want to let them go. I wanted to keep them with me forever.

Perhaps that’s where the itch to buy and own books was born.

Between our school and home lay the poshest market of the city with our dream bookstore. Hobby Corner. Nope, this wasn’t the one that belonged to our father’s friend but another one that sold books and then bought them back, at a small discount.

So some days (and I hope the children never ever read this bit) we’d sneak off the school bus mid-way, my sister and I, and we’d go to this book shop and indulge ourselves. Those days we didn’t have helpers in the bus to keep an eye on us so it must have been easier. Even so, this was a rare treat because we hardly ever had any money – even the two or three rupees that we would have had to pay up. Besides, there was also the issue of getting back home without the bus (for which we had a pass) and that also meant money for private transport. We managed it on some very lucky days and our parents never knew.

Long summer holidays were painful because with no access to the school library we were left bookless. Lending libraries were a dream in our city back then. Once we heard of one close by and I jumped and joined it only to find it was one of those that only stocked books on subjects like ‘meditation’ and ‘finding the true meaning of life’. I have nothing against all of that, but it most definitely wasn’t what my young teen self was looking for dreaming as it was of Heathcliff and Rhet Butler and the like.

I never did develop a taste for non-fiction.

In hindsight, I remain grateful for each of those childhood memories. Books and reading became that much more precious. Each time the Amazon delivery person knocks at my door even today, I get a happy thrill. While I constantly bemoan the lack of space in the house, I never want to part with my books, nor put them away in cartons, as the Husband once suggested. *Shudder*.

What are your earliest reading memories?

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Linking up with Amrita for #ThankfulThursdays.

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And also with  with Tina’s Mommynificent for the Booknificent Link-Up
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The Call of the Wind

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‘Mama may I roll down my window, please?’
‘No don’t.’
‘Why?’

Saba sighed. After a not-particularly-good day at work she really could do without this. This is the worst part of parenting, she thought to herself, this having to always always explain yourself.

Seher’s ‘Why’ still hung in the air waiting for her response.

‘Because,’ said Saba trying to summon all her patience, ‘it’s dusty and noisy and hot.’

‘But it isn’t. Look ma how the trees are swaying. It’s breezy. And there aren’t so many vehicles, pretty please?’

And this, was the second worst bit –  a No was never really a No till it was said over and over and over again. She felt a headache coming on. Thank goodness it is Friday evening.

She had got back from work looking forward to a quiet weekend, to putting her feet up and settling down with a hot cup of tea. That’s when the children had reminded her of the ‘promised’ treat to that new restaurant.

That would rank as the third worst thing – that kids never let you forget the promises you make them. It was a whole different thing, however when it came to promises that they made you, she reflected.

And so she had had a quick shower trying to wash off the day’s frustrations, had pulled on a tee and a skirt and here they were some 15 kms out of the city with Seher sitting beside her and Kabir in the back seat. She hoped the google lady knew where she was taking them as traffic thinned. She had considered calling off the treat but the dread of the children’s protests had made her drop the idea. Besides, a promise was a promise.

With Aarib away on a month-long assignment and she being taken up with this new project at work, the children had been left pretty much to their own selves. She realised she had missed spending time with them – their earnest conversations, silly antics and their banter.

If only it had been any other day.

Oh well thought she. It is as it is.

‘Maaa.. pleeease, may I?’ asked Seher yet again, her voice taking on a definite whine. Her nine-year-old was persistent if anything.

‘It isn’t even hot’, piped in four-year-old Kabir, ‘It’s starting to dribble’.

‘It’s drizzle dufus’, corrected the older one scornfully, ‘It’s starting to drizzle.’

‘Look na ma, it is drizzling’, she exclaimed pointing to the tiny droplets on the windshield going from a whiny irritated tween to an innocent animated child in the space of a moment.

‘Oh alright,’ said she reaching out to switch off the car air conditioner. Sometimes it was just easier to give in.

As the windows went down, fresh cool breeze rushed in pushing out the artificial cold inside the car and spraying the three of them with a fine mist of rain. Saba gasped in surprise while Seher and Kabir squealed for joy.

The wind tugged at Saba’s hair, tangling her short curly mop, smoothing out the knots of tension that seemed to have become part of her of late. She stuck her head out of the window letting the wind push her hair off her face, feeling lighter and happier than she had in a while.

Suddenly it didn’t seem imperative for them to reach the restaurant soon. Before she knew it she was braking the car, guiding it to a bend in the road and stopping. And then, on a whim, she opened the door and stepped out, followed by two very startled and delighted children. Saba smiled as they turned their faces up to the sky and ran around the car flapping their arms like wings, undeterred by the drizzle. The breeze whipped her skirt around her ankles and tugged insistently at her stole. She took a deep breath inhaling the petrichor, revelling in the promise of more rain.

For one small moment her thoughts drifted to wet car seats and even wetter children. And then they were all swept away as Saba gave herself up to the call of the wind.

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Written for the prompt ‘The Call of the Wind’ for Day 7, the last day of the second edition of the fortnight-long #Bar-a-thon.

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The Fragrance of Love

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At the first hint of his arrival she would start withdrawing – quietly, unobtrusively. Gathering up her diaphanous gown she would go around swiftly, pulling down the thick green curtains of her tiny room. And she would sit, waiting for him to leave.

He would arrive with a flourish – happy, cheerful, too cheerful, she thought – sure of everyone’s adoration. He was a star, the darling of the people. ‘We love you’ they chanted, ‘You are our very life’. He soaked it all in – all that adulation, the applause – like it was his due.

She felt his compelling presence, right there, outside, coaxing her to come out. As if he couldn’t fathom why someone wouldn’t be delighted by his presence. But she refused, pulling her curtains tighter together.

What is with this mass hysteria? she seethed. She hated the loud colours he sported, hated his haughtiness, his smug smile that seemed to charm everyone.

And then in her mind’s eye rose up the other one, unsolicited unbidden – her one true love. All the bitterness drained from her and her lips curved up in a tender smile. It was his gentleness that had first struck her. Or was it simply the contrast that had intrigued her? Drawn her to him? His simplicity over the other one’s ostentation, humility over arrogance.. perhaps. ‘He is but a pale shadow’, said the others. But not to her. To her he was the world.

The excited buzz of her friends outside broke into her reverie. She was tempted, for one tiny instant, to lift that curtain, to step out. And just as suddenly the thought left her. Her friends would have to choose – him or her. She stayed stubbornly in.

The hours passed slowly until finally she heard him begin to say his farewells. He was leaving. ‘Come back soon. We’ll be waiting for you’, said his adoring fans. ‘I’ll be back’, said he with a wave of his hand, smiling still, ‘But I have other places to go to’. And then in a blaze of colour, he was gone.

Inside her room, she heaved a happy sigh. She reached out for the curtains, pulling them aside with a flamboyant flourish, revelling in the caress of the cool breeze, lifting up her face to soak it all in. Her gossamer dress fluttered gently, teasing her, tickling her, drawing out a spontaneous delighted laugh. Soon, very soon he’d arrive… up there, lighting up the night sky – her one true lover.

This one is inspired by the Moonflower that is said to bloom at dusk and fold up by the morning.

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Written for the prompt ‘Suns and Lovers’ for Day 6 of the second edition of the fortnight-long #Bar-a-thon.

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