Book Review of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove was recommended to me by readers who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I understand why the parallels are made as both are quirky books, which at the centre of them have a protagonist who doesn't fit in or conform to the expectations placed on them by society. Both books are asking the reader to be open-minded and take a moment to explore why people behave in the ways that they do. Both Eleanor and Ove are presented to us sympathetically and both have 'outsiders' who are prepared to take a chance on them. As such the books have a heart-warming feel good factor.
A Man Called Ove, in essence, is about a grumpy curmudgeon who refuses to change with the times. He is judgemental of anyone who doesn't share his own narrow view of the world, and has a hatred for 'men in white shirts', whilst ironically vigorously upholding pointless red-tape and beaureacratic rules. On the surface he is not very likeable. Dig a little deeper and we learn where Ove's hatred of 'men in white shirts' and world cynicism stems from. We learn about his relationship with his disabled wife, his neigbours, his grief and his own emotional fragility. A Man Called Ove is a book full of social comment. In its exploration of loneliness; perhaps, what makes it stand out from the crowd is that the protagonist is a man.
Book Discussion Questions for A Man Called Ove
Ove is 59 years old. Do you think he seems like an older man? If so why?
Ove's grief is so overwhelming that he tries and fails to kill himself several times? Explore why he ultimately chooses life over death? What does this say about what we as humans need in life?
As a young man Ove was tricked and cheated out of his home and job? He has been overlooked and treated badly by 'men in white shirts' his whole life. How convincing do you find this as a reason for him developing a 'glass-half-empty' approach to life?
Ove and Rune have a friendship that has gone 'sour' and seems beyond rescuing once Rune buys a two seater BMW instead of a Volvo. Explore why this is so signficant.
When Ove dies there is a huge turnout at his funeral. Did you find this realistic? Why or why not?
Think of three adjectives to best sum up Ove. In turn discuss your adjective choices with the group.
Ove is probably mathematically gifted and quite obsessive about certain rites and habits. Is the writer suggesting that he has an undiagnosed condition such as autism or aspergers? If so does this affect how you view Ove?
Which other character/s in the book does Ove share similar personality traits with? What is the signficance of this?
Social and welfare care is presented as lacking in this story. Could Ove's story realistically occur in your own home country today?
Bookclub Questions for A Man Called Ove (If you haven't read the book!)
The narrator says in the book it is difficult to admit being wrong. Do you find it difficult to admit you are wrong or find it difficult to say sorry?
Look around your bookclub. Who is most like Ove and who is most like Parvaneh? Why?
Ove won over his wife Sonja by pretending to be training to be a soldier so that he might travel on the train with her day after day? She was wooed by this commitment and adoration. Ove didn't frequently show his love through 'romantic gestures' but was devoted to making Sonja's life as comfortable as possible. In many ways Sonja and Ove were opposites. Do you think opposites attract? Woul you prefer a partner who is traditionally romantic or one who shows their love in more practical ways?
Whilst love at first sight isn't actually mentioned by Ove, he does seem to fall in love with Sonja as soon as he set his eyes on her. Do you believe in or have you experienced love at first sight?
Ove uses politically incorrect language such as 'bender' and 'queer' yet demonstrates compassion towards Mirsad. Is it acceptable for older people to not be politically correct, or should they be corrected like anyone else?
The friendship beween Ove and Parvaneh is an unlikely one? Do you have stories of unlikely 'feel good' friendships that have occured in the lives of you or your friends?
If a seemingly grumpy old man was one of your neighbours would you take the time to get to know him? Has reading A Man Called Ove made you reconsider how you behave within your own community? If so how?
Summing up of A Man Called Ove
I did find some aspects of the book a little unrealistic. I found it hard to believe that Sonja would have married Ove and I found it quite hard to believe that Parvaneh would rescue him. Perhaps that is more a statement about my own level of cynicism than it is about the book. Putting that aside it is an enjoyable and emotional read. It creates meaning from seemingly insignificant acts, such as choosing to drive one car rather than another. In it's humour, perhaps exaggeration, and exploration of the ability the most flawed humans have to show compassion, it is infinitely readable. If you enjoyed Old Baggage by Lissa Evans then I think you would also enjoy A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.