I have recently gone on a book shopping spree – I think the effects of the pandemic and us going in I-don’t-even-remember-the-count lockdown have hit me. There are about 15 books on my nightstand and yet, I am constantly browsing for some reading inspiration. I change the order of the books by my bed, flip through pages trying to determine what to read next and all that is just to finally decide to order some new ones. I have been recently reading “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker and I loved that book but it is very scientific so in hopes to find something a bit more light and a bit more entertaining for my mind, I picked up “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.
Reading “A Man Called Ove” left me with the same warm feeling that I had after reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. After closing the last page of the book, you just want to be a better human being and you feel like a much better human being.
So who is Ove? At the beginning of the book, we hate Ove – Ove is a grumpy old man who is practically unbearable to be around. He is impolite, he is rude and he also argues with what he thinks is wrong in the world. By the end of the book, Ove pretty much melts our hearts as we learn his story – a story of a man who has principles, who lost the most precious things that he had and who always fought for what he believed in. As you can guess from the title of the book, Ove is the central character of the story but he is brilliantly mirrored through his beloved wife Sonja, his friend-foe Rune and his new and stubborn immigrant neighbour Parvaneh. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot and the book as I want you to enjoy Ove’s company for a few hundred pages.
Not only I found myself being immersed in the story completely and having trouble putting away this book, I also enjoyed the humorous tone which dominated the book – I can sense some of it is probably culturally related to Sweden where the author is from. As always, here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
“She had a golden brooch pinned to her front, in which the sunlight reflected hypnotically through the train window. It was half past six in the morning, Ove had just clocked off his shift and was actually supposed to be taking the train home. But then he saw her on the platform with all her rich auburn hair and her blue eyes and all her effervescent laughter. And he got back on the train. Of course he didn’t quite know himself why he was doing it. He had never been spontaneous before in his life. But when he saw her it was as if something malfunctioned.
He convinced one of the conductors to lend him his spare pair of trousers and shirt, so he didn’t have to look like a train cleaner, and then Ove went to sit by Sonja. It was the single best decision he would ever make.”
“Every morning for the almost four decades they had lived in this house, Ove had put on the coffee percolator, using exactly the same amount of coffee as any other morning, and then drunk a cup with his wife. One measure for each cup, and one extra for the jug – no more, no less. People didn’t know how to do that any more, brew some proper coffee. In the same way as nowadays nobody could write with a pen. Because now it was all computers and espresso machines. And where was the world going if people couldn’t even write or brew a bit of coffee?“
“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. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”
There is also a Swedish movie based on the book – it is in Swedish but it has English subtitles and is available on Amazon Prime. I did watch it after reading a book and I liked it, however, I think that Ove’s character is much more sharp and defined in the book so I would recommend starting with that:
I am sure you won’t regret spending your time in the company of Ove – I surely did not. Now I almost feel like I want to be a little bit like him.