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I have over recent weeks become enchanted by the Swedish author, Fredrik Backman.  An accomplished author who is based in Stockholm but has had his novels published in more than 40 countries and is regarded by the New York Times as a best-selling author.  But, to be honest, none of what I have just written was what first attracted me to the first novel of his that I read.  Rather, it was something as banal as the cover – an old man staring into the far distance as a rather scruffy cat entangles himself around the old man’s feet.

Without giving anything away – you will be charmed by the curmudgeonly old man who lends his name to the title of the novel.  He certainly is the most unlikely of heroes – in fact all he would really like to do is quietly end his life but a series of events involving his collection of eccentric neighbours means that his various unsuccessful attempts at suicide are interrupted.  Through every succeeding incident our “hero”, Ove, never loses his reputation as a curmudgeon – that irritating old neighbour who insists on the rules of the householders’ association being followed to the letter, who hates young children and considers them a source of constant aggravation, who never appears to laugh or even smile.  But here is the very essence Frederick Backman’s skill as an author – despite all of the reasons we could have to dislike Ove – we find ourselves falling in love with this character.  In my opinion, it is because in Ove we see various relatives of ours – perhaps even ourselves  – as they, or we, enter those “twilight” years where becoming irritated is the norm.

Backman writes in a very simple manner but with deft strokes paints a fascinating picture of a Swedish neighbourhood undergoing change and a man called Ove doing everything he can to resist the inevitability of that change.  He draws believable characters of the neighbours who become entangled with Ove’s life with often amusing consequences.  Each character is a new discovery and somehow, Backman is able to encourage the reader to befriend each of these characters.  My tears at the end of the novel were not only brought about by the poignancy of its conclusion but also the realisation that when I turned the final page, I would miss each and every character I had met and most of all…a man called Ove.

If you, like me, lead a life that is busy, fairly stressful and sometimes you need an escape – you can certainly find an escape in the pages of this touching and charming novel and become enchanted by a completely different world and charming eccentric characters. I can certainly recommend this author.  Soon I will introduce you to his other novel with the unique title:  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.   Happy reading!

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