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