A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove is yet another book that my mother has repeatedly told me to read, but which took me a long time to get around to reading. A Man Called Ove (originally En man som heter Ove) was first published in Sweden in 2012 and was translated into English by Henning Koch.

An image of the front cover of A Man Called Ove, which is aligned to the right-hand-side of a pale, wood-effect background.

We first meet Ove, a 59-year-old grumpy man, in a computer store as he tries to buy a laptop. Or a computer. Or an iPad. Why are there so many different options? He doesn’t trust any of them. The sales assistants are rightfully annoyed and a little intimidated by his aggressive attitude. Despite this rather negative introduction to Ove, I couldn’t help but warm to him immediately. His demeanour made me smile. We follow Ove as his repeated attempts to end his life are consistently thwarted by his neighbours, who seem hellbent on interrupting him from this task. And how is he meant to kill himself when the circumstances aren’t correct? Gradually, we learn more about Ove, how he has ended up in this situation, and the impact that he has on the lives of those around him.

I was apprehensive about reading this book because it was extremely popular and I had been told on several occasions that I would love it. Books that generate a lot of hype often fail to live up to one’s high expectations, so I worry that I won’t enjoy them as much as everyone assures me I will. Thankfully, I was not let down. A Man Called Ove is a touching and emotional read about love, loneliness, community and understanding. There’s also an excellent cat.

Ove is often a belligerent character, but I felt an overwhelming sense of affection for him. As the book progressed and I learnt more about his life, I understood why he behaved in certain ways. Ove is grumpy, pedantic, set in his ways, and often rude. But he’s also kind. He’s helpful, he’s loving, and he’s lonely. It was delightful to read about his relationships with his neighbours and to see how they developed over time. Seemingly small actions and fleeting interactions had tremendous significance, which is so true to life.

The serious elements of this book were perfectly balanced with the comedic sections. I laughed out loud. I also cried. At one point I laughed whilst I was crying. And isn’t that just what life is? Laughter and tears. Perhaps I just read this book at the right time in my life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I would have adored it no matter when I read it. A delightful piece of fiction.

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