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23 July 2014

Fredrik Backman: A Man called Ove

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What is a curmudgeon?
This is a gem of a feel-good debut novel about A MAN CALLED OVE by Swedish author and blogger Fredrik Backman. It will make you laugh and make you cry and you will remember Ove for a long time.

Some would call Ove a curmudgeon, a lovely word meaning a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person. His wife called him the most inflexible man in the world - he borders on being obsessive compulsive but is generally a grumpy man who doesn't tolerate fools and likes things to be done that way he wants them. While many think that he is  just a rude and grumpy man, at heart you will find out that he is one of the kindest persons you will ever know.

Ove is a 59 years old widower who has just been arbitrarily retired after 30 years in the same job. His world now revolves around his home and neighbourhood housing complex where he rules the roost making sure that all local rules and regulations are followed. He is very lonely since his wife died, he quarrelled with his best friend and neighbour years ago and rarely has contact with his neighbours.

Ove's world is one of anger and sadness. One day a new neighbour accidentally flattens Ove's mailbox driving in an area where vehicles are prohibited. This starts a very amusing, heartwarming and frequently very sad story as Ove's rigidly structured world is disrupted by unexpected friendship from Parvaneh, a vivacious small and very pregnant Iranian woman who has moved in next door with her Swedish husband Patrick and two girls. Parvaneh is perhaps the only person who can take on Ove directly and win, and starts to change his life for the better.

We also go back to how Ove met his vivacious and loving wife Sonja who was the direct opposite of Ove . At a critical time in her life she said to him "We can busy ourselves with living or dying, Ove. We have to move on." Now a widower Ove is struggling to move on.

This is one of the best feel-good stories I have read for some time and it gets a place in my best books for 2014. I strongly recommend it to someone who wants to read something different that will hit at your heart. If you are emotionally affected by books I strongly suggest keeping a box of tissues handy.

My thanks to Net Galley and Atria publishing for a copy of this book for my review.

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