By Fredrik Backman. Grade: A+(+)
“He was black and white”.
There’s something peculiar about this book.
This is a simple book.It’s a book of simple words telling a simple story. It’s a book that few people in our time can relate to, written by an author that even fewer have heard about (yet).
This book hits you like a pile of bricks.
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 neighbor 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.
A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryand Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.
The author writes impassively, with a low inclination towards pronouns, about Ove: The grumpiest possible stereotypical *man*, one who talks only when spoken to (and would often rather not be spoken to at all), can repair everything from a Bentley to a house radiator, and usually finds it near impossible to be on good terms with people for longer than a week.
A man who is trying his best to die.
“He was black and white, and she was all the color he had.”
Ove is an honest and a rational man, with a well earned distaste for bureaucrats. He has fixed schedules and habits, and he thoroughly abides by them. Ove is a grumpy inflexible man who generally despises any sort of change and is religiously skeptical of anything new or different (Unless it’s his car). It would seem unlikely that such a man would capture the sympathy, much less the empathy of many of the readers.
It’s incredibly difficult to finish this book without tears in your eyes.
People also called him antisocial. Ove assumed this meant he wasn’t overly keen on people. And in this instance he could totally agree with them. More often than not people were out of their minds.
The book has the emotionless writing style of a newspaper report, instilling the sort of dry humour and rant-like style redolent of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, and still manages to elicit emotions that one faces when going through a Khaled Hosseini novel.
It’s a veritable masterpiece.