Monday, July 24, 2017

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Reviewed by Jeanne

Ove is surrounded by idiots and incompetents. He tries to buy a computer called an iPad but the idiot salesclerk keeps saying that it’s not a computer, it’s a tablet.  People keep bringing cars into the neighborhood despite the signs clearly stating that no cars are allowed.  The world is falling apart.

Or so thinks Ove, who is a man of unbending principles. He is aghast when new people move in, driving a car with a trailer.  Or rather, attempting to drive, because the trailer is scraping against Ove’s house.  Obviously, this is another idiot with no idea of what he is doing.  The man is accompanied by a little foreign woman whose opinion of the man’s driving abilities—or lack thereof—mirrors Ove’s. 

This makes him dislike her a little less, the author tells us.

So begins A Man Called Ove.  Readers have been divided over this book:  some absolutely love it, some don’t see what all the fuss is about, and others feel about Ove the way Ove feels about everyone else.

I had intended to read the book some time ago, but just hadn’t gotten around to it.    I had my doubts, I admit.  Ove didn’t sound like a very endearing character and I was a tad concerned by the cat on the cover.  Sometimes that does not bode well for the cat.  Did I want to read a book about an irasciable Swede? Then my BPL Bingo card said “Read a translated book.”  That was just the little push I needed.

Count me among those who were charmed by the book.  Sure, Ove is a difficult character. It’s not just that he seems to be from a different era: Ove never fit in.  He sees the world in black and white, right and wrong.  He can be very rigid in his thinking.  And yet, there is a core of decency about him, even when he’s raging at the electronics salesman, which makes you think he’s not irredeemable.  He can be kind, even as he complains. I could also see some of the older generation in his situation, people who have always been self-sufficient but now who have to struggle against impersonal treatment and pushing buttons on phone to communicate what should have been a five minute conversation with a human being.

My suspicion when I started was that Ove would suddenly turn into a totally different character by the book’s end, jovial and expansive.  I’m glad to say that didn’t happen.  Maybe he did change, or maybe just my perceptions about him changed; whichever, it was believable.

I liked the way the author gradually revealed parts of Ove’s life. It helped me to understand the forces that shaped him, even as he remained true to his core personality.  There were so many interesting characters too, but I hate to try to describe them because I don’t want to give anything away.  Ove is best discovered by each reader.

So, yes, I am glad I read the book. My fears were laid to rest.

Also I checked the end of the book to make sure the cat survived.

Note:  The library also carries the movie.  It’s in Swedish with English subtitles.  There were changes made, but overall, I found it quite enjoyable. That fulfilled another Bingo square:  watch a movie based on a book.

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