This was the first book I started reading post my exams in May. Thanks to all the book reviewers and bloggers who I trust, who seemed to have loved and adored this book. And I totally knew that this could NOT be a book that was ‘just-all-about-the-hype’.
Five chapters into the book, disaster struck. I hated the slow, death-by-boredom vibe of the book. I gave up on the book. Why? Frankly, the book was not the reason (Trust me, Ove, it’s not you, it’s me). I was just bored of the act of reading. I had been reading continuously for almost four-five months for exams. And I couldn’t bear the sight of a book within a five-mile radius any more.
So I gave up on Ove.
But I picked up A Man Called Ove again out of sheer curiosity. I have to review “Beartown / Scandal” for NetGalley, and I thought it would be fun to compare Backman’s writing styles in two different books. Because I had liked the starting pace of Beartown / Scandal. And that was clearly not the case with Ove.
Now, as I reluctantly keep A Man Called Ove back on my bookshelf, I’m a mess of tears, laughter and happy, squishy memories.
Let me take you through the transformation.
The book starts off with the reader being introduced to Ove (OO-vuh). At first glance, he’s a grumpy old technophobe, stubborn as a mule. Nothing interesting, eh? That’s the stereotypical elderly man.
But as the story progresses, we find out that Ove is like Shrek. Many layers hidden under a tough exterior.
It’s hard to stop myself from revealing any spoilers as I try to explain the plot to you. But I can say this: don’t judge the book by the blurb. Don’t judge the book by it’s first five chapters.
I’ll introduce you to the characters in this book.
First off, Ove. Like I said, grumpy old man. Apart from that, he’s a master at all things related to construction and repairing, Give him a broken down bus, and he’ll repair it within an hour. Ask him to construct something from scratch, and he’ll do it (not without complaining bitterly about how dumb and ignorant the current generation is, though). He is that uncle in your society who can always be relied on to make sure that the bye-laws are being adhered to and the cars being parked properly, etc etc.
In short, Ove is a tough man to love. But, the author in his brilliant way, manages to make the reader fall in love with Ove as the reader reaches the last page of the book.
Then we come to Ove’s wife, Sonja (Sonia). Oh man, if I could meet just one fictional character from this book, I would love to meet Sonja. She’s the complete opposite of Ove. (No no no, don’t go thinking that this is a traditional love story where opposites attract is the mantra, no) Sonja is the complete opposite of Ove, in a symbiotic way. She completes him, and he completes her. She annoys him, and he annoys her. And they’re both willing to be annoyed by each other’s quirks till the end of days.
The story starts at that point of Ove’s life where Sonja has passed away, and Ove has lost his job. He has just lost the love of his life and the purpose of his life and is currently trying to join Sonja “up there”.
But, Ove’s death wish is being constantly challenged by the different people in his neighbourhood. For starters, there’s Parvaneh (Paar-vaa-neh) and her husband Patrick and her two kids and her on-the-way kid. She’s pregnant, emotional and hell-bent on making friends with Ove. They are new to the neighbourhood. Ove is naturally suspicious about them. Do you think they’ll ever be friends? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
There are an assortment of characters which enter the book at different times. This is because the author tells the story in a flashback format. There’s a lot of jumps between present and past, but it’s not that difficult to follow it through.
Rune, Ove’s oldest best friend and current enemy. Anita, Rune’s wife and Sonja’s best friend.
Jimmy, Anders, Lena, Adrian, Mirsad join the story later, but nevertheless have an important role to play in the book. Who are they? Revealing that would be a spoiler.
And how can I forget, the cat. Trust me, it’s an integral part of the story!
What I liked about this book is that it’s a perfect read for lovers of a subtle romance (like me). There’s no overpowering, dominating love in this book, no. But there’s a gentle lingering sense of mushiness and sweetness all around. There are moments in the book when you’ll just feel like cuddling with your loved one / pet / pillow (if the two aforementioned options aren’t available to you). There are moments in the book when you’ll laugh out loud irrespective of whether you’re sitting alone or in a room full of people. There are moments in the book when you find a quote so relatable you’ll feel like painting it on your wall. There are moments in the book when you just feel like hugging it and wishing all the love and luck for Ove and his future.
Since almost everyone I know has already shared their favourite quotes from the book, I don’t want to do that in my review. I’ll share the names of the chapters that I loved the most in the book. Mind you, the names of the chapters are also really creative!
A Man Who Was Ove and a House that Ove Built
A Man Who Was Ove and a Woman on a Train
A Man Called Ove and A Society Without Him
As a tribute to Ove, I’ll include a “What I didn’t like about this book” section to my 5-star review post, even though I usually don’t do so. The pace of the book could have been a bit more faster at the beginning and the blurb could have revealed a bit more about the story as regards to Sonja’s role in the book.
I give this book a 10/5 stars, and recommend it to everyone. And I mean, everyone. Even your cat, if you can train her to read / listen to you read. The cat will surely love this book (and Ove) too.