Ove doesn’t like people breaking rules. He doesn’t like people using computers. He doesn’t like men in white shirts. He doesn’t like wasting money, or electricity, or fuel. He is personally offended if someone changes their brand of car. He has alienated all his friends, and lives in misery amongst people who drive him mad. But he has decided not to live any more. Except with Parveneh and her family moving in next door and constantly barging into his life, the young man failing to repair a bicycle, his oldest enemy possibly being taken into care and a million other frustrating, annoying things about other people that must be taken care of, he never quite seems to find the time…
This book is interesting. Because you really don’t like Ove. He’s grumpy, he’s mean, he’s petty, and he reminds you of some of the most miserable people you’ve ever met. So to start with I didn’t feel particularly compelled to follow his story. But nevertheless, and I’m sure it wasn’t JUST pregnancy hormones, I found myself in tears multiple times throughout the book. It was very moving and human.
The story progresses with short chapters, and alternately in the present and going back into Ove’s past. And in the going into his past I liked that it seemed to being trying to contextualise rather than to explain or excuse him. There was a nice sense that he was how he was; and this was both positive and negative, and it was no one’s fault particularly. Even by the end of the book I wasn’t ready to overlook his less good bits, but I’d seen the good too.
I think the story did finally get a little over-sensational. A lot has happened to Ove, whose life from the outside appears ordinary but the past reveals is anything but. And mostly it was fine; and indeed I think probably most people’s lives are filled with secret drama, but towards the end it felt a bit to contrived for me. It was trying hard to tug at heart strings. And it worked, but I think perhaps would have been better without it.
The other characters that surround Ove, and continue to pester and annoy him, were brilliantly created; seen only through his eyes we nevertheless get a picture of them as we would see them. And the way they come around Ove and fill his life is very very well done.
My parents were the ones who finally convinced me to read this book, and I’m glad I did. I did find it hard to get into to start with as it did seem that Ove had pretty much no redeeming features and it was a bit boring, but probably a third of the way in I was invested enough to stick around. I’d recommend it – it has beautiful humanity and character journey within.