Author: Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Sceptre Books
ISBN: 9781444775815
Genre: Contemporary Fiction


A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbour from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.


I don’t normally read contemporary or literary fiction, in the same way I don’t want to get a nasty skin rash — through avoidance. But after reading a couple of reviews, and seeing it listed on a couple of blogs as a book to read — yes, I’m looking at you, Norrie. I found myself staring at the cover in my local bookstore and thinking, okay, maybe this won’t be so bad. Maybe I won’t get a skin rash, vomit, swoon or faint from cracking open its pages. So I bought it.

Sure enough, I checked myself regularly through out the reading process and, no rashes. I did, however, laugh a lot—because of his droll observations and the awkward situations he found himself dealing with—and smiled at the nicknames he gave everyone in his neighbourhood, including the mangy cat. Through to shaking my head in wonder, when the seemingly innocent act of drilling a hole in the ceiling turns out to be a lot more than drilling a hole in the ceiling.

There is so much more going on in Ove’s life, that trickles in through those first few chapters which, by the end, make you sit up and realise what’s really going on. And just why there is no colour left in Ove’s life anymore.

Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for the living For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.

All people at root are time optimists. We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.

People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.

Poignant, funny, uplifting and yes, at times, heartbreakingly sad, Ove has lived a simple life that’s anything but simple. In that the challenges he’s had to overcome, and the people—good and bad—that have shaped and moulded the boy through to the man that he becomes, all become part of the very cleverly written backstory. From Ove’s interactions with his father, through to the loving relationship he has with his wife, Sonja, and how they met and fell in love.

But it’s in the present we see how Ove’s life slowly transforms through the interactions with his (somewhat) friends and neighbours. Flawed people who make mistakes, argue (a lot) and drive Ove nuts yet, who at times, also touch Ove deeply in ways even he never expected — especially his next door neighbour, Parvaneh and her two young daughters. And even though Ove tells these people exactly what he thinks of them, they still manage to be there and to rally round, and change a grumpy old man’s life, in ways he never expected, and for the better.

Sad, funny, poignant and heartwarming, A Man Called Ove is an immensely enjoyable read. And one you will not forget easily. Certainly, it touched me deeply.

Rating : 8 / 10

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  1. October 18, 2018

    I didn’t think it was going to make me smile and laugh the way it did. The humour is very dry and sometimes, a little dark. It’s easy to identify with Ove, as we all have family and friends we know, like him. It’s the same with the cast, it’s all very normal and approachable, which made it an enjoyable read, Jasmine.

    I do hope you enjoy it.

  2. October 17, 2018

    I couldn’t have guessed that this book is full of humor. I will need to read this book soon! I’m glad you enjoyed it a lot. Maybe it’s good to read something you don’t normally read 🙂 Excellent review Alexandra!

  3. October 15, 2018

    Aww, i’m so glad you liked it!
    Stories about normal people doing normal people things can be really fascinating. I still need to read this one, but i think first i’ll read the sequel to Beartown 😀

    • October 15, 2018

      It was just the right book to read in between a lot of crime fiction, and epic fantasy. And was a story that just warmed your heart, perfect for this time of year. Eh, without the ghosts that is! 😉

      Now I want to read Beartown and have it on my list!

  4. I’m actually quite curious about the story behind his grumpy exterior. I really do love a novel where there’s a lot of personal development and this one makes me think of Eleanor Oliphant. I wasn’t really attracted to the novel but heard it so many times by now that it’s such a wonderful read that I bought the ecopy. After your wonderful review I’m even bumping it up my readlist. The mangy cat you mentioned is also a great selling point 🙂

    • Alexandra
      October 15, 2018

      This is one of those kinds of novels that creep up on you, quietly, Inge. I enjoyed the way the author has Ove look at the world, and then, slowly tells us why. How he came to be so grumpy, and lost. And that’s what makes this such a poignant read.

      The fun things is that Backman, the author, has made everyone just ordinary people you might see locally, or even know socially. And that makes the read all the more accessible as well as enjoyable. Be prepared to laugh as well as have your heartstrings tugged at.

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