Since joining a London book club earlier this year, I’ve read lots of books I otherwise would probably never have picked up off the shelf. Admittedly, recent read A Man Called Ove is one of those, because, well, it’s about a grumpy old man – why bother? "Do go on, Rachel..."
SO, WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT?
Essentially this is a book about a grouch of a man – a cantankerous old cynic (I just learnt that word, isn’t it fab?) who no longer recognises the world around him. Ove is 59, and the kind of man who thinks most everyone in the world a total twat. We very quickly learn that Ove recently lost his wife of almost 40 years and has simultaneously been let go from work, pushed into a retirement he neither wants nor knows what to do with. With no children or any real friends, and old age starting to take its toll, we meet Ove in a pretty dark space of mind, which is kept surprisingly comical through skilful storytelling which conjures up images and memories of that grumpy old person we have all crossed paths with at some point. Ove has just about given up on life until new neighbours, and a local stray cat, barge uninvited into his life. The ensuing story made me laugh and cry in equal measure.
WHY I LOVE IT SO MUCH
First of all, there’s a cat who is as much a character as any of the people in the story – it even makes an appearance on the cover. When an animal devoid of dialogue serves a narrative purpose so well – be it on screen or page – that to me is a triumph of storytelling. Also, I just really love cats.
CATS ASIDE THOUGH...
This book is full of beautiful observations about people, all people; from those who face the world with a frown, expecting the worst, to those who are determined to see the glass half full. A Man Called Ove reflects on the way we live our lives and go about our business, and it does so with beautiful clarity. It puts on paper the kind of thoughts you read and instantly recognise as your own; thoughts you realise you have absent-mindedly had yourself at some stage. There is something so delightful about reading one’s own worldly reflections as encapsulated and penned by another. This was one of my favourites:
"All people at root are time optimists. We always think there is enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and we stand there holding onto words like ‘if’.”
There are sombre moments, yes, but in these moments I found life-affirming messages that saw me turn the last page with a sense of optimism, despite the pessimist at the heart of the story. What this book accomplished for me was opening my eyes to the people around me. It gets inside the head of a man I felt certain I would have nothing in common with, and proved me wrong. A beautiful, heart-warming read – definitely worth picking up off the shelf.
It made the daily commute hella more enjoyable too!