A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman [Book Review]

Popular books always intrigued me when they were recommended to me. I would always look suspicious when somebody praised a book that was storming the libraries worldwide, because of the “general public” stigma. But after a couple of books that made me cry, laugh, throw things, and then start all over again, I swore that I will never, ever judge a book by its popularity. When A Man Called Ove was recommended to me, I am glad I did not judge it by how popular it was getting in my country. And it was one of the best decisions ever.

What’s the story about?

The story is revolving around an old man, called Ove, who is a stereotypical old man, all grumpy and sassy, who hates everything. Or, at least this is how the author tries to present him at first (we will talk more in the Pinpoints section below). He is a really handy man, with very specific taste is cars and a very strict daily schedule. When being laid off work, he is faced with the truth: he is old. To the rescue come Parvaneh and her family, and Ove gets to be “adopted” by this multicultural family. Also, he gets a cat…


this section contains spoilers

Loneliness – When you start diving deep into this book, you start getting the gist of what is coming. Ove is lonely. His wife died, and, after a long series of unfortunate events, he decides that it is time for him to die. So he tries to kill himself several times, failing every time because of outside or inside distractions. Fredrik Backman is building a very realistic version of loneliness. You will never really understand the type of loneliness Ove is feeling, until you actually experiment his traumas, but Fredrik does a really good job by transmitting all the internal troubling that is pushing Ove toward this.

To the rescue come Parvaneh, her two girls and dumb husband, and the cat. The cat plays a really important part, in my opinion. It basically is the cat version of Ove. They are being extremely territorial, but at the same time, really needy with each other. No matter how much of an impact Parvaneh and her family made on Ove’s life, I think the cat was the real saviour and the real reason for which Ove delayed his inevitable suicide for such a long time.

Family – The concept of family in this novel is a broad subject. Fredrik explores different types of families that are gravitating around Ove throughout the entire novel. We have Ove’s dad, who passed on his moral code to his son on how to be a better man. Then we have Sonja, the beautiful girl that will become Ove’s wife and will change his life entirely, adding to his journey of becoming a better man. Shortly after her death, we are introduced to the cat, who, in my opinion, was the one that actually saved Ove’s life for a long period of time. His morning companion, soon to become flatmate, helps Ove cope with his loneliness which follows Sonja’s death.

Rune and Anita are also family to Ove, even though their interaction have taken a break following the events of Rune taking over Ove’s spot for the deputy chair. When realising that Rune is now in a wheelchair and Anita is desperately trying to fight social services to keep him home, Ove becomes again active in their lives, helping Anita in her fight. And last, but not the least, we have Parvaneh’s family, which adopts Ove as a grandparent as soon as he gets to bond with the little girls. Towards the end of the novel we get to see why Ove is fighting with an Apple Store employee over an iPad.

Death – Death lingers in this novel from the first pages. We learn quickly that Ove has decided to kill himself, because the loneliness has become unbearable. Death has been one of the most present figures in Ove’s life: first his parents, then his lovely wife, and soon himself. There is so much to be said about death before it becomes a cliché. Whether I like to admit it or not, death is the fuel that keeps each character gravitating around Ove’s world. Looking into the way Ove is planning his final moments suggest the fact that he expects catharsis by doing this. But what really happens is that by postponing it and living in the present, Ove is getting his catharsis from what happens to him and around him.

In the end…

… I was not disappointed by this book. Even though it starts from a stereotypical character, the grumpy old man, the book proves itself as being a real contender, thus meeting my expectations.

Buy the book: Book Depository

Photos by Paula May, John Mark-Smith, Erik Odiin

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