An outstanding read!
Many of us know a cantankerous old man or two. I see one every morning … when I look in the mirror! Ove, the protagonist of this book, is a widower, desperately missing his wife. In fact, he misses her so much, he wants to join her on the other side.
This book will make you look at cantankerous old men in a more discerning way.
Reading A Man Called Ove is like listening to certain kinds of music, light classics with a beat or with a bit of drama like Rossini’s William Tell Overture, or Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. They start slowly, gradually building to smashing crescendo. In Fredrik Backman’s case, the crescendo is a ‘descendo’ but inevitable.
This is an excellent novel for a number of reasons.
It’s a classic story of the ugly duckling which has a soul of indescribable beauty. Ove is the aged ugly duckling, ornery, cantankerous, grumbling and unhappy. His wife has died of cancer after years of disability in a wheelchair. She and Ove had been holidaying in Spain. A traffic accident left her physically incapacitated and forced into wheelchair living. Worse, she lost the baby she was carrying.
Sonja never complained. She lived life fully, positively and optimistically. The sunshine to Ove’s gloomy moon. When she passed away, the moon slid behind dark clouds. Ove no longer saw any reason for living. Retired for years, without friends, living alone in the home he had rebuilt to accommodate Sonja’s disability, Ove prepares for his final day on earth. He prepares his home, ties up all legal documents for when he is gone, instructions for his funeral arrangements, his burial alongside his beloved Sonja.
Attempt one is thwarted. Ove becomes more disgruntled that he cannot carry out this last act in his life without unintended interruption. His neighbourhood becomes populated by people of whom Ove never would approve, ethnic minorities, older people, quirky people, people who he sees as aliens, intruders. Worse still, some of them even drove non-Swedish cars, German ones, Japanese ones, some even were considering French ones.
Another attempt, again a failure. Ove’s displeasure with his neighbours grows. Worse again, a stray cat becomes a yard fixture which upsets him even more. All his anti-cat endeavours are foiled by the cat itself, with an independent streak that upsets Ove even more.
Backman writes about Ove’s personal history in such a way that readers cannot resist admiring and respecting the man for his principles, is unassailable values and his moral uprightness.
This book is very entertaining. The story moves along at a steady pace, each chapter introducing a new wrinkle into Ove’s life, each wrinkle having an interesting, novel and unexpected but often heartwarming and enjoyable.
Backman develops a multifaceted old man who grows more appealing and lovable with each chapter. He moves the reader through a gauntlet of emotions, from neutrality to sadness to absolute grief with intervals devoted to romance, joy and happiness. The reader’s empathy with Ove is unavoidable as his depression grows. At times, readers may become angry with the unfairness of life, in Ove’s life too. But Backman moves his story along and the emotional roller coaster speeds on.
The other aspect of the books which will win readers over is its constant inclusion of humour, humorous people, humorous situations, and humorous events. Readers admiration and empathy for Ove grows steadily with each chapter. As the readers begin to cheer for Ove, his pack of neighbourhood misfits take on a new aura. Supporters who ally together to either help Ove or give him a real purpose for living.
The book is well translated with no real lapses from readability. The story is constantly moving one along in support and cheering of Ove.
A book which is as good on the second reading as it was in the first.
Excellent… 4 of 5 stars!