A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Translator: Henning Koch
Length: 9 hours
Narrator: George Newbern
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
Original Publication Date: 2012
Genre(s): Adult fiction, Contemporary
A man called Ove just wants to die in peace. He’s had a long life, one filled with equal parts happiness and sorrow, as most lives are. But when a boisterous, chatty family moves in next door to Ove, his daily consistencies are immediately interrupted. And it’s not just Parvana and her family that won’t leave Ove alone—suddenly, it’s the whole neighborhood! Ove’s daily routine will never be the same again.
When I started this novel, I had no idea how much I’d love it, nor how sad it would make me feel. I am pleased about both. The novel is told in third-person POV and follows a man called Ove (pronounced oo-va) during present-day. But these chapters alternate with one’s about Ove’s past, giving you a full 360° look into Ove’s entire life. You may not like this man when the novel starts, but I promise after getting to know him so thoroughly as you do during the course of this novel, you will love him by the end.
I think we’re supposed to severely dislike Ove at first? I never did, though. The only thing I didn’t like was how he treated the cat (at first). He never really harmed the cat, but he also didn’t really help it out much, so that was a little hard to listen to. Other than that, I felt I related to the old man. I often describe myself as being an old, grumpy man at heart, and I saw a lot of myself in Ove. He is very anti-social (check), prefers routine to spontaneity (check), and knows that just because he doesn’t go around smiling all the time doesn’t make him a jerk (check). He’s almost entirely endearing from start to finish, in my opinion.
Though not a lot happens during the course of the novel, I never found myself bored. I was so absorbed by Ove’s past, and the present-day chapters I found comical and heartwarming. The story never felt slow or uninteresting. And I loved the writing. I understand it was first written in Swedish and translated to English for my American reading pleasure. The story is also set in Sweden, of course. It’s a brilliant novel that deserves to be read by everyone. I laughed more times than I can count, and have to admit I teared up a few times, too. It’s an emotional story that I hope you all go out and read. It’s a story about love, and loss, and above all, hope. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. So, so, so good. Finishing it definitely felt like losing a friend.
–“Family histories repeat … Maybe our parents’ lives are imprinted within us, maybe the only fate there is is the temptation of reliving their mistakes. Maybe, try as we might, we will never be able to outrun the blood that runs through our veins. Or. Or maybe we are free the moment we’re born. Maybe everything we’ve ever done is by our own hands.
–“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living.”
–“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if.’”
–“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.”
–“You miss the strangest things when you lose someone. Little things. Smiles. The way she turned over in her sleep. Even repainting a room for her.”