TV schedules are full of gruesome murder artily filmed in beautiful locations and bookshelves are catching up. Never mind girls with dragon tattoos, I much prefer The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and it’s follow-up The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
My latest reading also come from the land of Ikea, Fredrik Backman’s A Man called Ove.
Ove appears at first to be a typical grumpy old man. He is surrounded by idiots who can’t reverse trailers, bleed radiators or read signs. When we first meet him, he’s trying to buy an iPad and complaining that it is a very poor sort of computer that doesn’t have a keyboard. The reason for bamboozling the salesman isn’t revealed until very late in the book.
The timelines in the book are interesting. Once we’ve left the computer store, we follow Ove through his daily routine. He is retired and devotes his time to doing things properly, wishing others would do things properly, and trying to kill himself.
Every other chapter takes us back through his history from childhood, first job, owning a SAAB, building a house, marriage, watching the house burn down, falling out with a neighbour for buying a BMW and the accident that nearly robs him of his wife.
You’d expect that the some of his misfortunes would explain why Ove is the way he is, but the truth is, he’s always been that way. Instead his single-mindedness lack of comprehension of why life is crazy inform his reactions to events. At first, I wasn’t sure about this but quickly grew into the story and like the character a lot. Maybe this says something about me!
By the end, the time lines come together and all the threads are tied up leading to the logical, if a little sad, ending.
Ove would be very satisfied by the way things turn out.
Reading the reviews is interesting. A Man called Ove didn’t need a lot of publicity, it’s described as a word of mouth sensation. 515 five-star reviews on Amazon would seem to confirm this – they greatly outnumber all the others. Read the 1 and 2 star reviews and they all say similar things. The style is simple and the character more like cartoons.
I’d agree that there is a lot in this. Ove lives in what one reviewer called “a Disneyfied version of the real world.”. The humour is gentle and slightly repetitious. The characters are there for a reason and nothing more. You sometimes wish Ove would be a bit more flexible too.
Despite this, I and a million others loved it. I can see why you might give up after a couple of chapters but for those who don’t, it’s great. I guess that there is a heart-warming thought for wannabe authors. You might submit your work to someone who doesn’t get it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, just that your style doesn’t click with them.
There is hope for us all.