It has been a long old summer and I was really looking forward to catching up with the book club over a few drinks and discussing our latest book. However, my daughter decided three days before she starts school would be a good time to break her arm and I spent the evening in A & E instead of the Wallington Arms.
So, this review is mainly my personal response, but hopefully it will largely reflect the views of the group.
A Man Called Ove is a Swedish novel, written by the author Frederick Backman. At its centre is the 59 year old Ove, who lives alone, after his wife died six months previously. He is pedantic, bad tempered, impatient, unforgiving and unbearable lonely. I found the novel both laugh out loud funny and extremely moving.
The first thing that we learn about Ove, other than his age, is that he drives a Saab. His hatred of all other cars and the people that drive them is a thread that runs throughout the novel. He had a best friend called Rune, whom he fell out with and has had a long- standing feud. Ove pinpoints the beginning of their relationship breakdown to when Rune bought a BMW. ‘Was a person hopeless because they believed there should be some limits? Ove didn’t think so.’ I love this!
Ove’s dissatisfaction with the world around him and the people in it keeps him isolated. He uses derogatory labels for his neighbours. ‘The lunchbox eater’, ‘the creature’, ‘the pregnant foreigner’, ‘the Lanky one’, ‘the Blonde Weed’, ‘The Audi poser’. It helps to put a barrier between him and other people. You could almost see Ove as a superhero, with his practical skills, battling against the villains in their white shirts. The comic style artwork used on the inside cover and at the beginning of each chapter also reinforced this idea for me.
Ove as the reluctant superhero battling mediocrity and stupidity creates a lot of comedy, but Backman also shows us Ove’s background and the reader realises why Ove is like he is. Ove doesn’t understand the world he finds himself in, so he withdraws from it and ultimately wants to leave it.
I loved this book. It has made me want to reach out to the Ove’s in my life. You do matter and yes there should be some limits.