A review of A Man Called Ove By Fredrick Backman

Reviewed by Emily McDonell

A Man Called Ove
By Fredrick Backman
Washington Square Press
May 2015, Paperback : 337 pages, ISBN-13 : 978-1476738024

A Man Called Ove has the power to remind anyone of another in their lives and became such a heart-warming and emotionally moving story which I enjoyed for its unforgettable characters. Backman’s work has definitely claimed a piece of my heart. 

Ove, our protagonist, appears to be your typical grumpy old man – prefers the ‘the way things used to be’, only speaks when necessary, can’t stand those who don’t follow the rules, is a man of routine and very much set in his ways. Yet, as we progress through the story the many layers to Ove are revealed. We experience his life with all the ups and downs of first love, death, heartbreak as well as other sweet and hilarious stories which allow the reader to realise why Ove is how he is.

Throughout the novel, we understand Ove’s love for his wife – Sonja, who pasted away recently. His grief is displayed through his continued attempts of suicide in a seemingly nonchalant way, however some form of ‘inconvenience’ (usually in the form of his seemingly incompetent neighbours) continuously prevent this from occurring. This makes the audience ponder whether destiny, as Ove’s wife always liked to believe, existed and has some control in the events of Ove’s life.

Fellow neighbours, including Parvaneh and Patrick with their growing family, Jimmy – the ‘fat’ boy across the road, Anders and his ‘Blonde Weed’ of a girlfriend with her ‘mutt’, Rune and Anita – friends of Sonja and Ove, as well as the Cat Annoyance (a stray cat Ove befriends) whom visits regularly; and many others are those who Ove observes and meets throughout the book. These characters make the book more enjoyable and humorous and provided excellent dialogue and character development. Over the course of time it is these characters who influence Ove’s thoughts and actions and perhaps even change him slightly.

Several strong and emotional moments are scattered throughout the book and I particularly enjoyed seeing Ove’s reaction to certain circumstances or people. As a character, Ove was memorable due to the author’s elaborate design of characters. His life experiences discussed in the novel prove how such events can mould us and our beliefs. 

An incredibly moving novel, I am glad I read this book as a ‘gateway’ book to other adult books. I would suggest this is a book for young adults (15-18) and adults, as some themes can be quite intense for younger readers. Overall, a beautiful story with strong messages and an emotional ending – you’ll need the tissue box for this one!

About the reviewer: Emily McDonell was first prize winner in the Hunter Writers’ Centre/Compulsive Reader book review competition. She is a high school student, an avid reader and has a passion for books. It was clear from a very early age that books would play a large part in her life. Emily has participated in the Premier’s Reading Challenge since starting her schooling and her favourite subject is English. Emily has also been a Girl Guide for the past nine years and is currently working to complete her Queen’s Guide Award. Emily also loves animals especially her dog Jersey.