A Man Called Ove

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Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots – joggers, neighbours who can’t reverse a trailer properly and shop assistants who talk in code. But isn’t it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so? In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible…

Ove is a 59-year-old Swede with traditional values. He says very little, he thinks a lot and he is the odd neighbour in a gentrified street. Simple pleasures appeal to Ove: the reliability of his Saab motorcar, the hard graft of his job on the railways and the spartan state of his house – until it burns down. Life has not been kind to Ove, but he refuses to become a victim. An orphan by the age of 16, a widower, and stitched up for theft, he storms through life with his integrity intact. When a young family move in next door, ‘foreigners‘ to be exact, Ove is suspicious. He takes a dim view on almost everyone, including a stray cat who appeals to his good nature. When an attempt to kill himself turns into a comedy of errors, Ove realises he must press on with life, only if he can live it his way. Shades of Farve appeared in Ove, and I rather warmed to this curmudgeons gent who hates the world and offends just about everyone. He’s spiky and lovable, and in the space of three weeks – the amount of time we spend with Ove – he affirms himself as the hero of the piece. Written in a no-nonsense style and peppered with black humour, Fredrik Backman’s portrayal of Ove reminds us that a little compassion can go a long way.

Fredrick Backman is a well-known blogger and columnist in Sweden. His debut novel’s protagonist was born on his blog, where over 1000 readers voted for Backman to write a novel about Ove. In 2011 he became an overnight success when one of his blog entries, “Personal message to stressed blond woman in Wolkswagen”, about reckless driving and parental love, became the most linked entry on Facebook ever, with 600,000 shares.

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