Friday, August 7, 2020
Friday, July 31, 2020
I borrowed this book from someone and didn’t particularly
expect to like it. (I only buy books I’m confident I’ll enjoy, but when I’m
borrowing instead I’ll take a chance of books I’m less sure about.) I’m pleased
to say that A MAN CALLED OVE, and I mean both the book and said man called Ove,
pleasantly surprised me.
Ove is a stereotypical, hyperbolized grumpy old man. At first glance, he seems filled with own self-importance, taking it upon himself to do sweeps of the neighborhood and report (or handle himself) even the smallest of infractions. Between flashbacks into his life leading up to this point and farcical run-ins with intrusively friendly neighbors, the onion of Ove shows us his surprising and affecting layers.
What impressed me first was the voice. Ove feels real and,
for me at least, unexpectedly likeable even from the start. His curmudgeonly but
distinct voice pulled me into the story easily, making the mundane extremely
What impressed me the most was the humor. A MAN CALLED OVE
is funny, and not enough books are funny. In my opinion, dark and dramatic
content is actually easier to write than humor (easier: not to be confused with
easy). Heavier books have their place, but like many readers, I crave the
palate cleansers of books that make me laugh. A MAN CALLED OVE does make you
think, too: the best of both worlds. However, it’s the humor, mostly found in
phrasing so specific to Ove’s voice, that singled this novel out for me among
many books that make me think.
Let me give you a little taste of each, so you can judge for
yourself. Here’s a line that made me think: “All people want to live dignified
lives; dignity just means something different to different people.” And here’s
one that made me laugh: “Can’t a man calmly and quietly stand over a cat-shaped
hole in a snowdrift in his own garden anymore?”
I foresee how much someone likes this story being a matter of taste, more so than with most I’d argue. I know numerous people who dislike stories focusing on the elderly. Personally, I suspect this has to do with their own fears of aging. However, I love such stories. Our society emphasizes youth like it’s a virtue instead of a phase, and I cherish stories that remind us of the humanity in people of all ages. Certain characters set up camp in my mind long after I finish a book; I can now count Ove among their ranks.