A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (translated by Henning Koch), is beautifully, painfully moving and funny. I laughed, I cried, I recognised so many irritating traits in the cantankerous protagonist. I wished that every community could have a man like Ove, and then wondered how most would put up with him.
Ove is fifty-nine years old and spends much of his time feeling angry. He has been an angry, old man for much of his adult life. He knows how to build a house, rebuild a car, but not how to get on with others. It is his view that most people are complete idiots, especially those who drive Audis or, even worse, French cars. He believes that the type of car a person chooses to drive says a great deal about their character.
Ove approves of loyalty and routine. He worked in the same place for a third of a century and has always driven a Saab. He keeps tools and other useful stuff in his shed, and patrols the neighbourhood early each morning to ensure that the Residents Association rules are being adhered to. He has no time for consultants, bureaucrats or computers.
Ove can see that the world around him has changed and he does not like it. He plans his demise. Time and again his plans are foiled when he is forced to act in order that he may deal with some stupidity caused by the irritating fools who surround him. He knows how the world should be and cannot comprehend why others do not follow the rules.
Each short chapter tells a story whilst progressing the core narrative, the story of Ove’s life. We are introduced to his family, his neighbours and the many, many people who he reluctantly helps. Ove’s quiet value, often hidden behind his grumpy intransigence, is recognised by more than he realises.
This is a story of people, tolerance and the inadequacies of society. It is an unusual and satisfying tale filled with mindful observations. I recommend that you read it.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Sceptre.