Book Review – A Man Called Ove

Written By: Fredrik Backman

Final Overall Rating: 9.6/10

Rating: 10 out of 10.

First of all, this review is purely derived from my own personal opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments; I am always up for a good discussion or to answer questions. 

(Spoilers Below – Read at your own peril!)

Recommend Yes or No: 

Yes – In my opinion, A Man Called Ove is a modern-day classic and should be read by most audiences. In this particular story, Backman primarily deals with themes of age, death and hope (the themes of life if you ask me) through the eyes of ever grumpy Ove. Ove’s journey will shake your world and help readers realize hope is everywhere, especially when you don’t want it. 

Writing Style: 9/10

Backman writes, A Man Called Ove, in third person omniscient point of view and present tense. While reading, I noticed that in Backman’s writing he masterfully utilizes complex and simple sentences to drive his points home. Many authors choose one or the other, but the balance Backman struck makes his writing clearer and more accessible to a variety of readers. 

I am going to start this review with what I think Backman could have done better (which is not a lot in all honesty). This book is very emotional. Every page is a tether to a greater social construct or the flaws/beauty of society. That being said, I felt that Backman sometimes defined emotions for the readers that were already defined by the scene in play. Because of this, some scenes felt a little repetitive. But this was a minor issue, and when all is said and done, does not really impact the significance of the book. I am just nitpicky.  

Now for the fun part, what Backman does well: 

For starters, Backman does an amazing job of creating a writing style that perfectly balances a story that is being told by one person to another and a story that is being read. By this, I mean that there is a great portion of this book where I can almost feel Backman reading to me versus me reading his book. I love this feeling, because it calls me back to days where my Mother would read books to me before bed. It is something I rarely find in a book, but treasure when I do.

Next is Backman’s dialogue and complementary descriptors. This book boasted realistic and believable dialogue that was tailored to the traits of each character. I never felt estranged from the conversations, and I never felt like the characters spoke, well, out of character. Backman also makes a point to complement his story, goals and characters with witty and clear descriptions of people, places and things. He accomplishes his descriptions through imagery, similes, metaphors and detail. 

Story: 10/10

Every chapter is precious and has nuggets of literary gold hidden in plain sight. Backman’s primary story arch revolves around Ove’s failed and foiled attempts to commit suicide, and his journey to finding a reason to live. It is not far into the book that you learn Ove wishes to join his wife, Sonja, in death. And though A Man Called Ove primarily focuses on Ove’s desperate wish for death it also highlights the themes of miscarriage, sickness, physical disabilities, domestic violence, LGBTQ+, social status, poverty, death, mixed-race marriage, age, and community. Through Ove’s heartache, Backman examines how trials can affect the human psyche and drive an individual to fall through the cracks of humanity’s social shortcomings. However, Backman points out that there is balance to social decay; where there are cracks of hopelessness one can also find hopefulness seeping through in unexpected ways. 

Character Development: 10/10

To me, character development is the cornerstone of every good book. You can have a subpar story, but if your characters are dynamic and relatable then a great story line is not always necessary to make a great book. Take Anderson’s Winsburgh, Ohio for example; the story was not necessarily intriguing, but the characters were, which gave the book literary excellence.  

Each character that Backman created in A Man Called Ove was beautiful, strange, unique, and above all else, relatable. The character craftmanship of Ove, Sonja, and Parvaneh was particularly extraordinary. Ove is grumpy and set in his ways, and yet, he learns to love again. Sonja is an optimistic woman who sees the beauty in living and is able, for a time, to paint Ove’s black and white world with color. And Parvaneh is a nosey neighbor with a big heart who helps to bring a flawed community together through her relentless attempts to open Ove’s heart to love. These heartfelt characters will change the way you view both friends and strangers. 

On a final note, Backman almost creates a character out of hope. This character seems to be a mixture of the theme of hope and of the love that Sonja is able to depart on the world before she dies. On page 231 Backman states, “It seems that someone, somewhere, knows the only way of stopping him is to put something in his way that makes him angry enough not to do it.” I believe that the “someone, somewhere,” is this obscure character of hope. And the “someone” interferes at every turn – reminding readers that hope is all around. 

Fun Facts about Backman:

  1. He is a Swedish blogger 
  2. He loves fried food.
  3. He worked at a fruit warehouse before he started getting paid to write

Favorite Quote from A Man Called Ove:      

How do I choose a singular quote from such a spectacular novel? The answer, I can’t. So, here are a few of my MANY favorites:

  1. “It was as if he didn’t want other people to talk to him, he was afraid that their chattering voices would drown out the memory of her voice” (Backman, 227).
  2. “We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens, and we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’” (246). 
  3. “What sort of love is it if you hand someone over when it gets difficult?” (262).
  4. “We fear it yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves” (284). 
  5. “Love is a strange thing. It takes you by surprise” (285). 

Final Takeaways: 

Do not forget to care for the elders in our society; one day you too shall be old. And, do not fear hope, because inevitably it will find you and try to change your life – let it.       

Works Cited: 

Backman, Fredrik. A Man Called Ove. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 2015. Print. 

Tell me what you think in the comments! Have you read this book? If so, did you like it?

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