There seems to have been a spate of Scandi-Lite in Swedish fiction recently, an antidote perhaps to the harshness of Scandi-Noir. Elderly folk are running amok with 100 year old men escaping from nursing homes and little old ladies openly flouting all the rules.
In Fredrik Backman’s first novel, Ove is not that old at 59 but he certainly fulfils the grouchiness credentials for grumpy old man status. Backman originally introduced Ove on his blog where readers encouraged him to create a novel about this irascible Swede. In 39 relatively short chapters we gain gradual insight into Ove’s life – what makes him tick and the events that have made him the grouchy man he is today. It’s an easy read, quite matter of fact but it did pull on my heartstrings….occasionally….
I think Ove will appeal to a lot of readers. He calls a spade a spade and says out loud the things most of us are too polite/repressed to voice. He reminds me of my dad who shared Ove’s thriftiness and pragmatism although not to the same extremes! There is homespun wisdom, lots of lessons to be learned about tolerance, frequent references to Saabs, a community coming together.
Yes, sometimes it gets a bit too saccharine-sweet and strays into Mitch Albom territory but for the most part I enjoyed reading about Ove and his neighbours. I see similarities with Harold Fry but Rachel Joyce’s novel is more nuanced and a more fluid narrative.
Destined to be a worldwide bestseller, the movie version of A Man Called Ove is currently being filmed in Sweden. I anticipate an American version in the not too distant future.
A Man Called Ove is published by Sceptre on 3rd July 2014.