‘A Man Called Ove’ – Fredrick Backman
I love a black comedy! It turns out ‘A Man Called Ove’ was exactly the book I needed over the holidays – it made me feel fuzzy and sentimental, even shedding a few tears as I finished it, which I hadn’t expected when I first picked it up.
A blue collar worker, Ove now finds himself out of work and alone, with neighbours intent on being as infuriating as possible. He struggles to understand the changing modern world, in which things that are functional, fixable and reliable don’t seem to be important. As Backman drip feeds us Ove’s back-story, (he has plenty of problems to throw at Ove over the years) he soon has us rooting for the grumpy old codger, and we reflect on how our experiences shape us.
The story might be sweet and the writing has a lightness of touch, but the sharpness of Ove’s tongue and the dark undertones (it’s not a spoiler to say all Ove wants to do is kill himself in peace) stop it being too saccharine sweet.
With warmth and humour, Backman has created a cast of characters you can invest in, especially sulky, rude but ultimately lovable Ove, and Parvaneh, the relatable, heavily pregnant, Persian neighbour who moves in across the street with her family.
We all know a little kindness and understanding go a long way, and Backman’s novel encourages empathy without being preachy. This novel reminds us it’s good to reach out to one another, finding reasons to really live, rather than merely exist.
You’ll enjoy it if… you love black comedies or books where a real sense of community and unlikely friendships emerge.
What didn’t add up for me… I had the impression the cantankerous 59 year old was much much older. Maybe that was intentional, as if he has always seemed rather old for his years.
Let me know your thoughts, especially if you’ve watched the movie version (which I haven’t yet). Happy reading!