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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

by Bia Ahmed, November 14, 2020

I picked up A Man Called Ove on the spur, like how I mostly do without digging too much into the story. Still, I’ve seen people raving about this book on Reddit promising me that if I liked ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ then I’m gonna adore this too which instantly grabbed my attention because that book is so close to my heart, I was wholly prepared to immerse myself into a similar character-driven story and boy oh boy that’s what I found here!

A Man Called Ove: Plot Summary

This book is about a man, who is called Ove (it’s pronounced Oo-vuh I was surprised to know after watching the trailer) uh I guess that much has been given away by the title. He’s a 59 yo man which is not that old, but the way he acts in this book made me visualize him to be a lot older than that. He’s bitter, a pessimist, and incapable of adjusting to change shunning people with their modern ways and always praising how things used to be so much better back in his time like how old people usually say that, but the narrative it was told in was comedic.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at some points, mostly during the scenes when he had to deal with ‘Cat Annoyance’ and how he grudgingly accepted her in his home.

“Ove glances at it as it rolls onto its side and starts snoring. He has to concede that the Cat Annoyance has a very direct approach to problem-solving.”

This was a truly heartwarming read, and I loved how even after he was set out to be negative and a deeply flawed character how I eventually found myself getting him and even finding his ways to deal with problems endearing. How he had to pretend to be all tough because of the things he had to face but still was capable of so much compassion.

He didn’t go around parading off the good things he did, in fact, he was pretty much embarrassed if anyone mentioned and praised him for it. He was a man of principle, and he always chose to do the right thing not out of moral obligation but simply because it’s just how it’s supposed to be.

“A time like that comes for every man, when he chooses what sort of man he wants to be. And if you don’t know the story, you don’t know the man.”

The backstory of Ove where we were shown his relationship with his father and how he looked up to him for everything, his conscious decision to become as much like his father as possible was the sweetest thing. And that’s how we get to know how it shaped him to become the person that he is today. At one point his father said “We’re not the sort of people who tell tales about what others do” in reply to when Ove asked his father why he didn’t mention that there was a briefcase as well with the wallet made me think about how much we readily expose the sins of others just to feel better about ourselves.

My favourite part of the story was (as can be easily predicted) when he was with Sonja, and how they two met. It was so precious to witness that kind of love, to have a person who cared about you without expecting back anything in return. It was tender, and it was sweet. The way Ove went out of his way to make her happy. And still loved her even if they were polar opposites, they both complimented each other so nicely. She radiated happiness while Ove was in his words ‘a grumpy old sod’.

“But Sonja would not have been Sonja if she had let the darkness win.”

She trusted openly and believed the best in other people, while Ove was always on his guard. And yet they understood and accepted each other just the way they are. Sure there were some disputes, but they didn’t last long and they always made up in the end.

“I just wanted to know what it felt like to be someone you look at.”

I can go on forever talking and quoting parts from their chapters, so I’m just gonna move on to other points :p

There were parts in this book with his neighbour Ruth which got repetitive and slowed down the story for me and at points I did start to feel a bit mentally exhausted reading from Ove’s POV because his mind was always so full of rage.

He felt helpless because however hard he tried he couldn’t protect the people he cared for so he either tried to take matters into his own hands doing anything he could at the moment or by fighting about silly things that didn’t matter much to gain some semblance of control.

I’m a naturally mushy person, so this book pushed all my buttons -plus I prefer reading character-driven stories that’s why I was bound to like this standalone novel.

But it doesn’t mean I found this book to be perfect, the writing came across slightly methodical and monotonous to me, but that’s maybe because the essence got lost in translation. I also found Ove’s neighbours to be a bit pushy and always trying to butt into his business. The humour in this book also felt heavy-handed and one-note to me after a while, mostly when Ove would look at someone as if [he was/he did] sth stupid which I stopped finding funny after a while but that in no way ruined the fun I was having while reading this book.

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