Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Atria Books, 2012)

Ove has never been the life and soul of a party – in fact, he’s been withdrawn, taciturn, irritable and abrasive most of his life. Ove has high principles and a short fuse. He expects things to be done correctly, conducts daily neighbourhood inspections, and badgers his fellow residents and the local council if things don’t meet his exacting standards. And he has no time for people who do not drive a Saab or can’t fix anything they own. Now aged 59, his beloved wife, Sonja, is dead and he’s been let go from his job. He just wants to end it all and join her. His new neighbours and a stray cat, however, have other ideas, disrupting his plans and his ordered life. Pregnant Parvaneh, husband Patrick and their two young children are immune to Ove’s curmudgeonly ways and slowly inveigle their way into his life – borrowing ladders, seeking lifts to hospital and driving lessons, and reading stories. The cat hangs around his house seeking shelter from a local bully with a vicious little dog. Try as he might, Ove can neither end it all, nor get his neighbours or council officials to follow or enforce the Resident Association rules. Moreover, he can’t help doing good deeds, in part because he gets so frustrated with other people making a hames of whatever it is they are doing, though he moans and despairs all the while. Despite his wishes, his bitterness and crankiness seem to finally be becoming appreciated by more than his wife, who always saw in him qualities that no-one else could. Backman tells Ove’s story by focusing on the few weeks from when Parvaneh and her family move into street, interspersed with key moments in his life. The tale is essentially an in-depth character study, peeling back the layers to reveal what made the man, and detailing how his life and those of his neighbours becomes transformed. It’s a sort of a late coming-of-age/putting life back-on-track story that’s engaging, gently humorous, a bit sentimental, and heart-warming. I found it an enjoyable read on the lead up to Christmas.


pattinase (abbott) said...

And the movie does it justice.

Rob Kitchin said...

That makes a nice change! Will watch it if I see in the schedules for TV