Review | A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

You’ll come to love this story slowly and without realising. 4/5 stars.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman book cover

The blurb: A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

My take:

After gifting this book a large slice of patience it eventually made me laugh, cry and – most impressively – laugh whilst crying.

I’m sure this comparison will have been made by many other reviewers, but Ove is basically the old guy in Disney Pixar’s Up. If you remember, the best bit of that movie was the short silent montage about Carl’s life at the start. Well, half this book is that montage, but more tragic. The other half is taken up with present events which, thankfully, are a bit lighter in tone.

If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of books which have real protagonists who are over 50. When I say “real”, I mean they’re not just trotted out to be convenient babysitters/bringers of wisdom, but are three-dimensional characters with believable inner-lives. A Man Called Ove has this in spades and, for that alone, I would encourage others to read it.

However, this book is not for you if you require non-stop action from page 1. In a 300-page book, it didn’t really pique my interest for the first 100 pages, and I wasn’t gripped until around page 200. However, this is because the story takes a slow and gradual approach to the revelation of character which pays huge dividends to any reader who sticks with Ove until the third act, which is fantastic and will provoke all the aforementioned emotions. The crying is good crying, by the way.

Overall: a story which unfurls gradually to reveal a character you can’t help love. I look forward to reading Backman’s other books asap.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

26 thoughts on “Review | A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

  1. I loved this book so much. You described it perfectly. Not much happens. But that’s why I loved it. It’s just a book about a grumpy guy who figures out what his simple life should really be about.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Claire, I wanted to let you know that I am reading J.G. Ballard’s novels beginning with “The Drowned World.” This was the one available at the local library. I couldn’t find the hardback about the condominium dwellers. The only one available was to download which confused the librarian also. I am not sure about “The Drowned World” but I am looking forward to getting his books of short stories. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember sitting in the theatre, waiting for a nice Pixar movie, and bam 5 minutes into the movie, I was in tears because of that life trailer. I kept thinking “why do you do that? Kids won’t grasp the utter sadness of it, but adults are here too!” I was so depressed, but I guess it worked perfectly, as I remember the movie very well even years after. I stay away from any tear-jerkers, but I’ll make an exception for this one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was the whole problem with Up – that 2 minute silent movie bit at the start was absolutely wonderful and the rest of the film just wasn’t as good!
      Fortunately, because events in Ove are spaced out and interspersed with funnier stuff, it doesn’t have the devastating impact that short silent piece has in Up. This is good, because it allows you to get almost the whole way through the book without crying!


  4. I loved this book so much! My book club read it, and we all fell in love with Ove and his cantankerous ways. I’ve also read Britt-Marie Was Here, and that one was also excellent, with memorable characters.
    I haven’t read My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry (as it is titled here in the US), I’ve heard that one has a couple different translated versions to it, and one version is definitely better than the other. Just something I heard from my friends who’ve read some of his work, but none of us have read that particular book yet to know if it holds up to Ove & Britt-Marie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen good reviews for all three books, so I’m going in optimistic. Interesting about the translation making such a difference between the versions. The translation of Ove I read was excellent. You would never have guessed it wasn’t written in English first.
      This would be a great book club choice 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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