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.
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.