Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon; the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him 'the bitter neighbour from hell'. But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.
A Man Called Ove runs the gamut of emotions: laughter, exasperation, anger, compassion, fear, love, loss. Those new neighbors of his force him to get involved in something other than his own tunnel-vision plans, and as Ove constantly gets yanked into the lives of others, his backstory is slowly revealed. That backstory makes all the difference in the world because we get to see Ove as a child, as a teenager, as a young man-- and we see why Ove became so mean-spirited.
Some may dismiss A Man Called Ove as a simple "feel good" story. Yes, it does make the reader feel good, but that assessment sells this book short. It is a wonderful characterization and examination of a man's life. It just may get some of us to re-evaluate the curmudgeons in our own lives.
I was stunned to learn that this is a debut novel because it certainly doesn't read like one. I could ramble enthusiastically for several more paragraphs, but I won't. If you've been avoiding Fredrik Backman's book because of the hype, stop. Pick it up and read it. My only warning? Have a family-size box of tissues close at hand when you near the end. You will be crying. Crying for sad... and crying for happy.
It felt quite churlish to give 3 stars when I must admit that, nonetheless, I did derive a good deal of enjoyment from the story. It charmed me despite myself. I liked the construction of the story, of the flashbacks and subplots intertwining nicely. It had a somewhat stylised and artificial quality that set it apart from others of this ilk.
It reminded me gently that even though a story arc might be predictable, it's the small quirky details, the unexpected twists, the satisfying little revenges, along with grace and humour, that make the story sing. That's a wonderful achievement not easily obtained.
- an overly twee read about a curmudgeon with a heart of gold who is thawed out by a lovingly diverse group of stereotypes
- an excuse for a lifetime of passive-aggressiveness and misanthropy
- a musing on the effects of childhood trauma
- a story about grief in a person with a personality disorder
Yeah. I wasn't unaffected by it while reading it --shit, you'd have to have a personality disorder not to be moved, but you'd also have to be slightly brain dead not to recognize the manipulation.
Too harsh? I'm going to get roasted at book club.
But my dad had one one the very few Saab 9?s probably in the whole state of Iowa in the 60s so YEAH!
In this bestselling and charming debut from one of Sweden’s most successful authors, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon – the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. When a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. And so one cranky old man is changed, and a local residents’ association shaken to its very foundations.
I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any Swedish literature to this point, but A Man Called Ove is indeed a charming and worthy debut. I loved Ove, and I thoroughly enjoyed his gradual, reluctant metamorphosis from curmudgeon to neighbourly granddad. Backman illustrates beautifully the influence that one life has on countless others around it. Am curious what this blogger-turned-author will write next. Highly recommended.
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.” (Ch 5)
“Of all the imaginable things he most misses about her, the thing he really wishes he could do again is hold her hand in his. She had a way of folding her index finger into his palm, hiding it inside. And he always felt that nothing in the world was impossible when she did that. Of all the things he could miss, that’s what he misses most.” (Ch 8)
Starting off the book - especially with the suicide attempt - I wasn't quite sure what I was going to make of the story. It's a quirky little book, almost episodic with chapters that bring you along for one story and sometimes delving into the past so you eventually learn quite a bit about this man called Ove, who is curmudgeonly but good-hearted. His neighbors include Parvaneh, Patrick and family; Anita and her husband Rune, Ove's one-time friend now enemy; Jimmy the computer geek; and others. I kept thinking it was set in England because of the use of "bloody" as a swear, but they all live in a housing development in Sweden where one must assuredly - as Ove would say - follow the rules. It's a truly delightful tale that wound its way around my heart, and before I knew it I was crying over the characters. Recommended for readers of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
I didn’t really know what to think of the story at first - was sceptic - but then we begin to hear the back-story of Ove and his life and marriage - and what was only biting slapstick satire at startout became a very moving, funny, weird story - a story with heart and soul - about acceptance and tolerance and a second chance in life.
The story is about an irascible, but sweet, curmudgeon of a man, a man who sees the world in his own way and believes it his duty to let everyone know it. He is rigid and shows very little outward emotion, but inside, there is a very soft heart. Every day, he mourns the loss of his wife Sonja. She has “chosen” to die before him which isn’t the way it was supposed to happen. He wanted to go first. He doesn’t really know how to live without her; She was everything to him. Enter a new neighbor, Parvenah, and a variety of other odd characters, and then add a woebegone, bedraggled cat to the mix, and watch as life takes on a new meaning for Ove. Slowly, this mix of unusual characters begin to enrich his life, even without his acknowledgment of their effort or little acts of kindness. At first, none of the characters have names, rather they have disparaging nicknames provided by Ove, but as they become identified with their true names, the story’s humanity, as well as Ove’s, is revealed.
His forced retirement from his job because of his health before he was ready to stop working, coupled with the untimely loss of his wife, Sonja, has driven Ove to want to join her. At first, he seems obsessive/compulsive, inspecting the neighborhood, keeping everything just so, following rules to distraction, being essentially overcritical about everything and everyone, expecting perfection and perfect obedience to rules and regulations. Then, once you get to know Ove, you begin to understand who he is and begin to appreciate his behavior. If nothing else, the book is a testimony to the value of those individuals who seem different than the mainstream. They too have the ability to make enormous contributions to society. It is what people do, not what they talk about, that is the measure of the man, according to Ove.
Ove has come up against the bureaucracy many times and he soon begins to feel hopeless and helpless to change things. The cold, unfeeling administrative “white shirts” defeat him at every turn. They make decisions based on regulations that don’t take the individual situation into consideration, that don’t deal with concerns, human need or emotion. Everything to them is black and white. Like Ove, they are following rules, but Ove makes and follows rules for the treatment of inanimate objects, and these “white shirts” make rules for the treatment of human beings, against their wishes. Ove goes to war with the council. Often "the administrative rules are not made for the benefit of the person but for the benefit of the functionaries. So, although both Ove and “the white shirts” concern themselves with following rules, the process and outcome is completely different.
While Ove wants his own authority to be respected, he often does not respect the authority of others in charge because they have a different purpose. The difference in the purpose of each is really what makes this such a beautiful story, if not a fairy tale. In this wonderful novel, everyone is eventually valued for who they are, the things they do, and not the things that are said about them. We discover that underneath Ove’s hard surface is a tenderness that pervades the entire story. He is a man who wants to do the right thing, regardless of the effort involved, regardless of how it interferes with his own needs. He has a “big heart” and always tries to do the right thing!
"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman is all about these kind of chances. It's a book about grief and loss, about the inability to die even if you want to, and about opportunities no one knew they needed and couldn't have hoped for. I couldn't put it down.
Ove is the perfect archetype for the word 'curmudgeon'. Everything is Ove's world is black and white, right and wrong. Rules are meant to be followed, signs are meant to be obeyed and Ove will let you know if you don't.
I read the first bit and actually felt quite sad. I didn't want to listen to a litany of complaints. (I have to listen to a few people like this at work - why bring it home?) I just thought this wasn't a book for me. But then I started hearing how much everyone loved it - and the library ordered the audio version - so I thought I would give it another go by listening. And am I ever glad I did!
The story came alive for me with George Newbern's reading. He captured the mental image I had created for Ove, but also gave him a humanity beyond the grousing. Ove's wife Sonia died four years ago and Ove has now decided that life is not worth living - suicide is on his list of things to do that day. Until a new, noisy family moves in next door. Of course they don't know how to back in a trailer. Ove will show them how to do it right. Suicide goes on the list for tomorrow. But then there's one more thing that Ove needs to oversee - and then another....
I can't believe I almost missed this wonderful tale! Backman is a gifted storyteller - I became completely invested in this little corner of the world, cheering on Ove as he rediscovers life - with a side of grumpy. If you liked The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, you will enjoy A Man Called Ove.
The main character is a tall, straight-laced Swede who could easily win any contest for grumpiness, but by the end,
I'll bet that you, too, will end up enchanted.
As the story unfolds, the reader is introduced to Ove's life, and all the hardships and happiness he has been through. There is a lot of dark comedy, how Ove is constantly interrupted from committing suicide by annoying neighbours, and how even a modern rope can't even perform its function correctly as it snaps in half because of its poor quality.
I found it so sad how Ove felt after his wife died and it was lovely to see Ove be embraced by a community without him knowing or even wanting it. Grumpy git right to the end. I grew so attached to Ove that his story had me at some points shedding a tear. Much like his neighbours, I grew to love that man.
It is a fun story, if predictably stereotyped. The writing tries hard to be charming, and I think it mostly fails.
And I loved him completely from the second paragraph.
“He drives a Saab. He's the kind of man who points at people he doesn't like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman's flashlight.”
He just can't seem to manage the one task he most wants to complete.
Except when going back in his history, this novel is written in present tense, something hard to do well, but I love it in this book.
The writing is wonderfully descriptive without being overdone, and is quite funny in places.
“Ove looks at the book more or less as if it just sent him a chain letter insisting that the book was really a Nigerian prince who had a 'very lucrative investment opportunity' for Ove and now only needed Ove's account number 'to sort something out.'”
“...she sounded the way Ove imagined champagne bubbles would have sounded if they were capable of laughter.”
Despite his best intentions to be miserable, his new neighbors won't leave him alone. Very Pregnant Parvaneh won't just let him be, is demanding, sarcastic, and a wonderful character. Her three-year old, delighted by everything, and her world-weary seven-year old . Her tolerant husband seems like a wuss, but is also completely likable. And there are “the men in white shirts,” the bureaucrats who man Ove's live miserable.
And then there is the Cat Annoyance, with unstoppable attitude. (Reminds me of my ancient kitty, who is NOT, in his old age, a pretty sight.)
Key phrases are repeated or paraphrased later in the story, and adds to the continuity.
Despite correcting someone else's grammar, Ove's is occasionally wrong, using the wrong subjective/objective I/me, but I think that is due to translation. Ove certainly would not make such a mistake.
I'm not a fast reader, but I read this book in a day, just because I didn't want to do anything else until I finished it. The book is delightful.