Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
I have been accused of being a book snob and it’s not often that I truly love a novel but I do love A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I can’t read Swedish so I don’t know how true the English translation is to the original but it’s beautiful in English!
My dear friend, who has very similar taste in books to me, gave me this book for my birthday. I hadn’t heard of the author or title but while packing for my recent trip to Arabia I decided to take it with me. The hours fell away as I was entranced by this story. I found myself wishing I didn’t have to work in the evenings after work and that I could relax with this book instead. Of course, few things are more motivating than an impending oral presentation to peers (of which I have so many), so instead I worked but the novel was never far from my thoughts.
Long hours spent in transit provided me with time to read and this book proved to be a worthwhile companion. Countless times I shook with laughter, often out loud, which is wildly inappropriate in airports and planes, but when you read this book I challenge you to resist! Twice waiters (at different cafés in Perth) asked me what I was reading and said that it must be good, so I suppose that my reading pleasure was evident.
An equal number of times I felt my throat tighten and tears well and then spill down my cheeks. I read the entire book in public places so this was not good but at least no one commented! I wonder if anyone can read this endearing story without welling up with tears?
Ove is an irascible, taciturn old grump and he annoyed me intensely at the beginning but Backman and translator Henning Koch skilfully wove into the story so many wonderful vignettes that Ove became very dear to me. I have men like Ove in my family and I was delighted to read insights into the mentality of such infuriating men. Backman uses Ove to make such social comments as:
An entire country standing up and applauding the fact that no one was capable of doing anything properly any more. The unreserved celebration of mediocrity.
This is one of the most beautiful love stories that I’ve encountered and what’s better is that it is entirely believable! Ove’s wife Sonia is a truly lovely person and I would love to be friends with her. This description of love made my throat ache as I recognised my own 21 year relationship:
Loving someone is like moving into a house. .. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love the house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.
The cat is a perfect companion to Ove and seems to be a guardian angel in some ways. Likewise Parveneh who I certainly wish I could meet and befriend.
Go on, read it! I am confident that you won’t be disappointed. I’ve taken care not to spoil it for you… This is the next a series of very good “Boomer Lit” that I’ve greatly enjoyed, like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.