This book is a million-copy bestseller which is described on its front cover as ‘warm, funny… unbearably moving’ – and, having been presented with this title at my monthly reading group, I really did look forward to reading it. I’ve been through quite a lot of Scandinavian fiction recently and I hoped this would be just as light-hearted and wonderfully quirky.
The heading in the first chapter ‘A Man Called Ove Buys a Computer that is Not a Computer’ was a very good start and I began to read with some optimism.
Ove is the archetypal grumpy old man, but as the book reveals more of his character, the reader gradually understands why this might be, and he is ends up being a very easy character to like.
Basically Ove, who sees the world in black and white, and for whom colour existed only when his wife was in his life, now realises he is unsatistfied with his monochrome existence, and decides to kill himself. This knowledge is not made to the reader overtly, but it soon becomes clear.
But when Ove attempts to hang himself, the rope snaps, when he tries to exhaust fume himself to death in the garage, his neighbor interrupts. Similarly when he tries to be run over by a train, another person falls into the tracks and Ove must save him, then changes his mind about his own demise.
There are many sweet moments in the book – largely when Ove talks about his wife, especially the first time when you realize that his wife is no longer around but that he has been speaking to her as if she was. Also, when the reader first realises that he is a man of honour but, that he learns to ensure others don’t take advantage. The first signs that he’s humanising come when he grumpily supports his neighbours – who, in turn, don’t give up on him, eventually leading to full reintegration, to the extent that his favourits neighbour’s child calls him ‘Granddad’.. I don’t know why, but the happiest moment in the book for me was when I realised that Jimmy wasn’t just a random jovial chubby neighbour, but had been enabled to stay in the neighbourhood as a child, because of the actions of Ove and Rune.
I was sorry I had to rush-read this book. I was sorry that things didn’t always go well for all the characters, so I guess that indicates that I cared about them. I liked the book. There were times when the jokey, jovial style irritated a little, and I wanted a little more depth, but when the writer decided to get all sentimental, for a few paragraphs, I was genuinely touched.
So, for me, it worked, perhaps it was overly long, and it certainly required more attention than I was able to give, but it was fun and easy and enjoyable.