translated by Henning Koch
I finally got around to reading this one. I don\’t have much to say about it, that others haven’t already. It’s about an old, cantankerous man who believes in doing things only one way: the right way. He doesn’t have much patience with other people and what he views as their foolish behavior. He’s basically lost his will to live since his wife died. But all his deliberate attempts to join her are interrupted by neighbors who need his help- at first this seems coincidence, but gradually you start to wonder. From new foreign neighbors to old estranged friends, they all show Ove that he really does have a place in this world.
It’s a story with a strong message and a tender ending, some funny moments here and there. But overall, I found it rather difficult to get through. The old man’s sour attitude included using unkind and crude expressions to describe other people- which I found distasteful and eventually repetitive. For most of the characters, I did not get a clear picture of what they were like- probably because the descriptions just reflected Ove’s poor opinion of them- so I never connected with, or care much about them. The writing often felt awkward and abrupt, I’m not sure if this was a stylistic attempt to reflect Ove’s personality, or just due to the translation (original is Swedish). And there was a cat in the story, which gradually attached itself to Ove. The cat’s behavior was often more like a dog than a real cat, which puzzled me. Ove himself is a very down-to-earth, no-nonsense man who sees everything in black and white. He likes being useful and fixing things, can’t abide a man who lacks basic knowledge to do the same. All the stuff about cars, especially Ove’s obsession with his chosen model, really was lost on me.
I appreciate the idea and the sentiment, but I didn’t really enjoy reading this one.