A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is wildly popular on Goodreads (over 100,000 ratings!) and it is listed as one of the top sellers on Audible.com. I don’t really understand this but then again I am rarely simpatico with the casual reader.
There is nothing remarkable about the story. It is interesting enough. I was able to predict what was going to happen next, more or less, but that’s o.k.
Neither is this anything remarkable about the writing. It is pleasant enough. I wasn’t compelled to reread any especially profound passages but it wasn’t poorly written.
The thing that bugged me was the rather audacious emotional “guidance” of the reader throughout the telling of this story. I am describing that deliberate, heavy-handed revelation of something terribly sad or just doggone unfortunate, which is intended to trigger tears. In music it is called an appoggiatura (think of Adele’s “Someone Like You” or Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”). The order of the notes is designed to extract certain emotions.
So, in writing one can produce the physiological reaction of profound sadness or regret by having events unfold in a particular way. Fine. But too much of this feels abusive. I think this author relied too much on this technique.
Otherwise, it was a decent book. I loved the character, Ove. I understand that it has been made into a movie, which does not surprise me in the least. As I read the book, I kept thinking - "This is one of those books which might actually be better as a movie.”
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