Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Beckman

Translated by Henning Koch

4.5 Stars

I’m the kind who believes that there is a right time for every book. Of course, I don’t know the when’s and how’s. But I believe in the theory and it has been proved correct more than once. A friend recommended this book more than a year ago. It was followed by a series of recommendations by at least 15 people, if not more. I lost count, to be honest.

Each time, I gave the same reply- I’ll pick it up this weekend.

Needless to say, it never happened. As 2020 began to slip through our fingers, I got this random idea of ending the year with A Man Called Ove. It seemed fitting. Don’t ask how.

So I began reading, wondering if my super high expectations would be rewarded or not. It’s not uncommon that hyped books end up disappointing to the point where we start becoming wary of recommendations.

The rating at the beginning should be enough indication that I loved the book. It has been a long time since a book made me smile, smirk, chuckle, laugh, plunge into sadness, and end up with tears in my eyes. I knew how the book would end midway through. It left me sad even as a sense of peace descended upon my senses. That’s a perfect example of life.

I’ve read Ove being called grumpy, bitter, rude, and heartless. Yeah, he is all of those, but there is such depth in his character that it comes out layer by layer, adding a new dimension to his life. I connected with Ove long before he started showing disgruntled consideration for others. I guess, deep down, I knew he was a loner, and loners are rarely understood, much less appreciated.

The narration is simple, quirky, cheeky, and touching. It’s a combination of the narrator’s commentary and Ove’s grumpiness. It’s endearing at times and ridiculous a few other times. And this combination seemed to have worked its magic.

Yes, some scenes and descriptions weren’t as good. But it’s tough to declare that these are the opinions of the narrator and not Ove. The views seem to suit Ove’s character. His thoughts, ideas, and opinions drive the book. The book is, after all, Ove’s life story.

The storyline goes back and forth- the past written in the past tense, and the present in the present tense. We see how Ove's childhood shaped him and how his wife, Sonja, played a vital role in letting him live. It’s easy to understand his unexplainable depression when she passes away, leaving him alone in a world where no one tried to understand him.

Some characters felt stereotypical. But hey, we do come across such people in real life, and the author managed to keep them that way. That’s the biggest USP of the book. Even a two-dimensional character doesn’t seem shallow.