‘A Man Called Ove’ by Frederik Backman
‘A Man Called Ove’ continues my review theme of stories written from the male point of view. Once again, like ‘A Whole Life’, this book is a superb translation, this time from Swedish. And just a quick tribute to the translators who managed to capture the sense, emotion and style of both books. Without the right understated ‘voice’ these book would not ‘live’ like they do.
Once again this is a simple tale of a seemingly simple life. When we first encounter Ove, he seems to be the grumpiest and most pernickety old man you could ever wish to meet
But through the clever construction of the story, we gradually discover Ove’s background and delve deeper into what made him into the person he becomes. Then, as readers, the gradual realisation dawns about what the hook was for, the tire tracks on the kitchen floor, the identity of Jimmy, and poignantly why Sonja never answered him when he talked to her.
Many parts of the story are heart-breaking but always offset by humour, such as his interactions with the bedraggled cat (whose attitude perhaps personifies his wife Sonja). All the characters in the book come alive and play their part as the story unfolds, from Rune, to Jimmy, to Anita, Parvaneh, Sonja of course, and the little girl who always drew him in colour.
We read this in my book group and all the men were honest enough to confess to identifying with many of Ove’s characteristics, such as turning down radiators ….their wives nodded.
All this led into a discussion of the central theme of the book ‘What is the value of a man?’ According to Ove ‘Men are what they are because of what they do, not what they say.’ A thought-provoking statement in these times when men are perhaps feeling their inherent skills and masculinity are becoming undervalued.
A memorable, moving, warm, funny book, highly recommended