“To love someone is like moving into a house,” Sonja used to say. “At first you fall in love in everything new, you wonder every morning that this is one's own, as if they are afraid that someone will suddenly come tumbling through the door and say that there has been a serious mistake and that it simply was not meant to would live so fine. But as the years go by, the facade worn, the wood cracks here and there, and you start to love this house not so much for all the ways it is perfect in that for all the ways it is not. You become familiar with all its nooks and crannies. How to avoid that the key gets stuck in the lock if it is cold outside? Which floorboards have some give when you step on them, and exactly how to open the doors for them not to creak? That's it, all the little secrets that make it your home.”
Books have a way of finding you. You might be suffering from insomnia and it’s the first thing you grab to distract you, or a recommendation thrust into your hand with an eager ‘Here, read this’, or that magical moment of finding a book under piles of sale books.
Books sneak in and steal your heart – just as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, The Collected Works of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, The World According to Garp by John Irving, and let me not forget the The Ten Things I Learnt about Love by Sarah Butler. All these books truly change the way you love books, making it deeper and more profound.
So let me introduce Ove, a curmudgeon, retired, grumpy, widower, and what his neighbours call: the bitter neighbor from hell. This truly isn’t the best setting for a ‘great fiction novel’. It’s a November morning that changes everything, when a couple and their two daughters move in next door and accidently flatten Ove’s mailbox that unleashes the fictional journey of a lifetime – filled to the brim with comedy, cats, a homeless teen, an estranged friend and the art of reversing. The story is puzzled together with misty recounts of the past of Grumpy-Ole-Ove.
It’s pretty cookie-cutter, one incident sets of a ripple of change in Ove’s life. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me. I know we have read books like this – there are a few out there. I enjoyed this one, for the ease of Frederick Backman’s writing, for the frustration towards Ove, and the slightly (I refuse to admit it) tear-stained pages of this novel. It truly is a glorious read; I’ll even forgive the melodramatic scenes.
Read this for its discovery of life (grief, love, family, friendship and heartache all in one) and it’s endearing, infuriating and lovable character named Ove.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman features on this month’s Exclusive Books Recommends for September.