REVIEW: A Man Called Ove

The titular hero of A Man Called Ove, a grumpy, 59-year-old Swede who believes nearly all other humans are imbecilic, spends the vast majority of this book trying to commit suicide only to find himself thwarted at every turn.

Now you’d think that doesn’t make for much cheerfulness, but this novel by Fredrik Backman is actually packed full of laughs. And not just the quick, quiet smile you do when something you read amuses you, it is full of laugh out loud, you-don’t-want-to-be-sitting-on-public-transport-while-reading-this moments.

And, for me, one of the reasons it is so funny is that I can see more than a little essence of both my father and my husband in Ove.

The all-other-people-are-idiots attitude, the disbelief that people are not born with a certain element of practical knowledge about pretty much everything, a dislike of polite conversation, a strong attention to some serious morals, the absolute love of a partner, the stubbornness, the sarcasm. All of these attributes I recognise and, because of that, I absolutely adore Ove and understand exactly what motivates him to take certain actions. He is a good and honest man, if a bit set in his ways and grumpy.

Made redundant and widowed within a short space of time, Ove takes great care about his suicide plans, not wanting to inconvenience anyone any more than necessary. But his plans are continually scuppered.

His greatest hindrance is a 30-year-old, heavily pregnant Iranian woman, her husband who has a complete inability to reverse a trailer and their two daughters aged three and seven years who move in next door, scraping his outside wall and demolishing his letterbox in the process.

Without his permission they insert themselves into his life in a most inconvenient way. And that leaves the door open for other waifs and strays to break down the barriers Ove has put up; a cat who almost freezes to death in a snowdrift outside Ove’s house, an overweight Star Wars fan who lives opposite, a neighbouring couple who Ove has barely spoken to since the husband purchased a BMW, a lovesick postman and the gay manager of a nearby coffee shop.

And in between trying to help this mish-mash of characters (because that’s what good people do) and trying to kill himself, Ove reflects on his life and relationships.

This is a deliciously-told story of unlikely friendships and grief, occupied by characters that just leap from every page. Anyone who has ever owned a cat will know the level of disdain with which you can be treated by it just as anyone who has ever owned a three-year-old will know their way of seeing the world can be unlike all others.

It made me laugh (many times) and it made me cry. A Man Called Ove is irresistible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: