A Man Called Ove

I didn’t know that this book was made into a movie. This was our first book for our February book club appointment. These are our selected titles:

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From Wikipedia:

A Man Called Ove (original title in Swedish: En man som heter Ove) is a 2012 novel by Fredrik Backman, a Swedish columnist, blogger and writer. It was published in English in 2013. The English version reached the New York Times Best Seller list 18 months after it was published and stayed on the list for 42 weeks.

In January 2015 a stage version of the book, with Johan Rheborg in the leading role as Ove, had its premiere in Stockholm. In addition, it was adapted as a film of the same name, which was premiered on 25 December 2015, with Rolf Lassgård in the leading role.

I had seen this book pop up at Goodreads, but it didn’t catch my attention. Contemporary books don’t appeal to me much. This book was one more example of why I don’t read many contemporary books.

My impressions. It felt like an assorted box of chocolates. Some of the pieces were truly well done, others left a bitter taste in my mouth. Without spoilers, A Man Called Ove is a page turner. Characters are well written, very real, the contrast between traditional values and modern life is a well spotted thread well developed in the book. There’s some good qualities to this book, such as a fresh tone, (maybe the author being Swedish gives it that flair), humor, tenderness, a clever look at the world of immigrants and children, and of course, the person of Ove. He is someone interesting, worth meeting. However, -you knew this was coming, didn’t you?-, in the same package, I couldn’t help but noticing a willingness to please approach, the recourse to some cliches, and an urgent need to rub the bellies of the masses. That brought the book down from what could have been a literary compelling novel to a forgettable consumption product.

I’m not upset with the author. It’s already hard to choose writing as a profession. I’m nobody to judge him for writing to publish, aiming to the best selling market. Many consecrated writers we place at the top of this we call literary tradition, also enjoyed a measure of popularity. Maybe Frederick Backman will also make it, in a hundred years time, to the authors list who represent our times. Who knows? That’s the point. At that time, those reading him will be privy to the sifted list of what’s left from our century. As for me, I’m going a step back in time, since that is my routine strategy to find those books that, in a more general scope, I know are sure reads, worth my time.

Wasn’t this title worth my time? I think it was since in February I’ll have the chance to discuss it with my book club buddies. Will I read more titles by Backman? I don’t think so.

11 thoughts on “A Man Called Ove

  1. Happy to see you blogging about more books, Silvia! And to see your book club lineup 🙂 I’ve heard mixed reviews over Ove but am glad to read what you think. I’m looking forward to The Last Castle!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It may be because it’s an interesting main character, and it jives with many thoughts of the moment. You may like it. I am hard to please when it comes to books, the classics and excellent books have spoiled me. If you are looking for something light, and you want to check up the hype of the moment, it’s not all a waste of time either. It helps you see what’s popular and why, I believe.

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  2. I think this is probably a good book for a group to read. I read the first couple chapters and decided against. If I had all the time in the world, I would read it and probably find it charming, but so many books, so little time.

    One think that did bug me in the bits that I read is that Ove is only in his 50s. I don’t know how old Bachmann is, but to me 50+ isn’t that ancient and certainly an age to be acquainted with the difference between and IPAD and a laptop,etc.. Maybe not in Sweden?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it has all sorts of problems, it’s pedestrian. I can see why all the hype, it’s a feel good type of book. Good books, among other things, make us think. This one is chewed up for you.

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  3. I enjoyed reading this, but I definitely get why some wouldn’t. And you’re absolutely right about him making some crowd-pleasing, yet ultimately less interesting, choices in the narrative.

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    1. What upsets me is that I think the writer has the ability to write much better, but he compromises. It’s not that I disagree with his values (as if anyone is in perfect match with the beliefs of all or any of the great authors!), but the fact that he doesn’t take his good plot and writing chops all the way to give us a modern Dickensian Ove.
      And despite the controversial topics he addresses, what made me mad was his view of Patrick, the pregnant neighbor’s husband, an how Ove and Patrick’s wife both regard him as useless, and that didn’t sit very well with me, it should have been either more satirical, or, if kept in check with reality, it was a poor choice, somehow, those small things start regarding us readers as dumb. I could go on an on with the many problems of the book. It’s either take it to the comical extreme, or make it believable, but he stops midway and gives us an intelligent Ove who’s managed to be at a high end job without making it into the computer’s world. There’s inconsistencies that happen, I believe, because the writer decides to stay in the confines of the commercial and trendy. I don’t know if I blame him, or the pressure of today for writers to write within ridiculous confines.

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  4. I guess I’m the odd one here because I actually really liked A Man Called Ove. Both the book and the movie made me cry. I also read And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and thought it was good as well. I felt it was a quieter novella and was sad; but also real and heartwarming too. I am actually looking forward to reading another Backman novel this year.

    I love the diverse opinions about books, don’t you? Makes for good discussion! 😉

    One of the your book club reads this year is The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. LOVE this book! I’ve read it twice. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is on my list of books to read. I’ve heard it is really good. In fact, a local bookseller recommended it to me just a couple of weeks ago.

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