A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

Paperback, 2015

Call number




Washington Square Press (2015), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages


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.… (more)

Media reviews

Den svenske suksessbloggeren Fredrik Backman drar oss gjennom en forutsigbar fortelling som trykker på alle de rette knappene inntil vi er trygt plassert innenfor vår egen komfortsone.
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Livet är obegripligt, världen är läskig och det går inte att skydda sig mot den. Fredrik Backman berättar underhållande om botemedlet i sin debutroman.
Genom humorns prisma belyser ”En man som heter Ove” teman som åldrande, vänskap, sorg, livslust och den föränderliga mansrollen. Boken är varken behärskad eller finputsad – delar är återvunna från Café-bloggen och har skarvats in lite slarvigt – men den är en skruvad och gripande romandebut som mycket väl kan vara början på ett stort humoristiskt författarskap.
This word-of-mouth bestseller has sold more than 650,000 copies in Sweden and has been a hit across Europe. It deserves to do at least as well here. I loved A Man Called Ove so much that I started to ration how much I read to prolong my time with this cantankerous, low-key, misunderstood man. If you enjoyed Rachel Joyce’s marvellous bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, you will love this book. Each short chapter of A Man Called Ove could stand alone as a beautifully crafted short story. Bring the chapters together and you have the most uplifting, life-affirming and often comic tale of how kindness, love and happiness can be found in the most unlikely places
Backman's tale of 59-yea-old curmudgeon, Ove, not only captured the hearts of Backman's fellow Swedes, but has also swept across Europe as a word-of-mouth best-seller; a domino effect that suggests community spirit and social responsibility isn't quite so lacking as we're often told it is....On occasion the slightly repetitive tone becomes cloying, but Backman can tickle the funny bone and tug on the heart strings when he needs to, and is a clever enough storyteller to not overindulge in either. For those of you who don't want your fiction to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, A Man Called Ove isn't for you. Yet it's surprisingly cheering to think how many people have embraced this simple but heartwarming novel.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cathyskye
This is a book that I'd managed to ignore for almost a year. When I keep seeing the same title over and over again on the book websites and blogs that I frequent, I tend to go into avoidance mode. Hype makes me suspicious. It wasn't until recently when someone whose opinion I trust recommended this book that I decided to give it another look. Am I ever glad that I did.

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.
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LibraryThing member TheBookJunky
I enjoyed this a lot. My inner curmudgeon (who frequently becomes 'outer') said, "Baahh! Trite sentimental claptrap. The whole story was entirely predictable. Contrived, manipulative, phooey!"
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.

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LibraryThing member jjaylynny
This book could be viewed a few ways:
- 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!
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LibraryThing member DavidO1103
Lovely book, about Ove, a grumpy Saab-loving Swede who can fix anything, and has little patience for those who can't. Deeply missed his wife Sophie (? Sophia), and is impatient with new neighbors who include a pregnant Iranian woman and her Swedish husband and their two girls. He has no use for "men in white shirts" -- bureaucrats. Seemingly against his will, he and an assortment of characters worm their ways into each other's lives... Funny, poignant, sad, lovely...… (more)
LibraryThing member lit_chick
Book Description: adapted from Amazon.com
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.

My Review:
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.

Favourite Quotes:
“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)
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LibraryThing member bell7
Ove, age fifty-nine recently widowed and let go from his job, just wants to die in peace but life keeps getting in the way: namely, the new family that just moved in and others in the neighborhood keep needing his help and interrupting his suicide attempts. Can't a man die in peace? But as Ove's late wife, Sonja, would have said we have things we're destined to do and just maybe Ove has something to live for yet.

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.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
Ove is 59. Grumpy. Stubborn. Set in his ways, steadfast in his principles and with a peculiar sense of justice. He is also very lonely - mourning the loss of his late wife. In steps the persian neighbours - and in particular the woman Parvana. They form an unlikely bond that develops into a friendship - very slowly Ove is about to change. Reluctantly that is.

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.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Let me begin by saying that I love novels that are written about basic human feelings, basic beautiful, “out of the-mainstream” characters, like those in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, Mrs. Ames, and A. J. Fikry. I loved all of the quirky characters in this book; each had his or her own peculiar trait which created the atmosphere within which a warm and caring community arose. There is no awful violence, brutal sex or very foul language; there is just the milk of human kindness hiding on every page you turn. Sit back and relax. You will smile as you read this, perhaps chuckle under your breath or laugh out loud, and sometimes, you may even shed a tear or two.
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!
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LibraryThing member nyiper
This was.....absolutely delightful!!!!!!! I loved the audio, read by George Newborn. There is no way to not have tears in your eyes over the ending---such a perfectly beautifully told story---just thinking about Ove makes with laugh with pleasure ---Sonia was right about that husband of hers. She knew him right from the start and we understand him as well as the story evolves.… (more)
LibraryThing member lgaikwad
I realized a while ago in life that I am often given chances I didn't even know I wanted.

"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.… (more)
LibraryThing member nancenwv
I found this book mawkish and painfully overdrawn. I couldn't finish it.
LibraryThing member lissabeth21
That has to be the most absolutely satisfying, perfect ending to any book I've ever read!! The very first line of the whole book disturbed me slightly; fifty-nine is too young to be "old." But every line after was immensely wonderful. I literally laughed out loud, shared sections with people nearby, and had tears in my eyes more than once - marveling at both the beauty and ugliness of the world we live in.… (more)
LibraryThing member VivienneR
My doctor gave me this book. She had just turned the last page and had to share it with someone. I know how she felt. And even though it might have a moral mixed in with the quirky humour, it's hardly noticeable. After his wife's death, Ove is desperately lonely and more than anything wants to join her, however, each attempt to take his own life misfires. As the story advances Ove and Sonja's story is told. One complaint: Backman has obviously never owned a cat and he got the feline characteristics all wrong. Never mind, the charming characters, including the cat and the curmudgeonly Ove, make up for all the transgressions. By the way, the old curmudgeon is fifty-nine!… (more)
LibraryThing member Twink
I first tried reading A Man Called Ove from Swedish author Fredrik Backman.

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.
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LibraryThing member AudrieClifford
How could anyone love this book?
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.
LibraryThing member ProfH
Sentimental garbage. I finished it out of obligation to family members who insisted I give it a chance. Every character is cartoonish. At no point in the novel did I care about the situations or consequences.
LibraryThing member 4everfanatical
This is a heartwarming story of a man called Ove. He is your average quintessential grumpy pensioner who has been somewhat left behind by the modern world. Ove's hilarious observations about the people around him are really quite apt. Everyone has known somebody like Ove in their lifetime.

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.
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LibraryThing member breic
Ove is a grumpy old man whose wife died six months ago. Stuck in his routines and desperately missing her, he considers a half dozen ways of killing himself. The story alternates between chapters telling his personal biography, from childhood through to his marriage and conflicted measurement with a neighbor, and the present time, in which he helps his neighbors, a cat, and the estranged friend.

It is a fun story, if predictably stereotyped. The writing tries hard to be charming, and I think it mostly fails.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
Ove is a grouchy old man at 59. He is inflexible, judgmental, critical, and an Enforcer of Rules. People just don't live up to his standards. (Reminder to self – don't become like Ove,)

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.
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LibraryThing member Bricker
Wow! An amazingly beautiful book. A story of what happens when life gets interrupted and then even the interruption gets interrupted.
LibraryThing member terran
This is definitely my favorite book of 2015. I've known old men like Ove, and haven't always liked them, but maybe I would have loved them eventually as I came to love Ove by the end of the book. He is grieving the death of his wife, loses his job, tries numerous times to kill himself, but always ends up interrupting the suicide attempts to help his feckless neighbors. It is filled with humor and humanity and is just a treasure.… (more)
LibraryThing member she_climber
Never thought I could fall in love with a senior curmudgeon. Great story and worth the hype.
LibraryThing member gogglemiss
I nearly gave up on this book on page 26, as it started slowly, but am I glad that I persevered with this. I laughed, I didn't cry but my heart softened many times, at this beautiful, sad and uplifting tale. Wonderful book.
LibraryThing member Clara53
​The first chapter might be deceiving - it's not all about an aging curmudgeon going about and making everybody miserable. Keep reading! It's much more than that. There is sensibility, humor, love, humanity of some and ugly behavior of others, and even a touch of predictability didn't bother me, it still felt right. And then there is the cat - whose expressions as interpreted by the author will make you laugh out loud... A great read.​… (more)
LibraryThing member libraslibros
I was expecting to love this book, but I thought it was just okay. Maybe curmudgeon characters aren't my thing. I liked the interactions between Ove and the cat the best.




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