This is, technically, not a book review. I rarely write those anymore.

That said, this is kind of, sort of a review of a book that touched my heart, opened my eyes and made me reflect on a number of things, as a reader, writer and blogger. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s back track, just a bit.

I first came across Fredrick Backman’s ‘A Man Called Ove‘ on Amazon’s suggested reading list a few months ago. This was after I’d been gifted the Kindle paperwhite for my birthday.

The premise was delightfully intriguing and I kept meaning to get to the book, but it never happened. Rather,Β  I started the book, got through about 25% of it and then it lay untouched on the device for a long time.

Until this past weekend.

And I finished the book in less than a day. It was spellbinding in its simplicity and thought-provoking as it was heartwarming.

In brief, here’s the story: (excerpt from Goodreads)

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 himΒ 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 and unexpected friendship.

You may wonder what it was about this book that spoke to me. It was a number of things. For one thing, it was the language. It’s simple without being simplistic. Now, I know that this is a translation I’ve read and not the original Swedish, but the fact that it was so effortless had two thumbs-up from me. Henning Koch, the translator, has beautifully captured the soul of Backman and the protagonist, Ove. The style reminds me of R.K.Narayan in his classic and timeless appeal.

Words are beautiful things. As a writer, I know this. As a reader, I appreciate this. I also know the stress of overdoing a scene with superfluous words. Books which do that tend to put me off from the word ‘go’. That rule applies to blog posts as well, by the way. There was no such discomfort in this book. Every scene was eloquent without being flashy. Every moment, be it humorous or tragic (and there were copious amounts of both), was etched with elegance and tender care, like an artist picking just the right hue of orange for that special sunset.

I admired this quality in the book with a touch of envy. The words seemed to roll off the writer’s pen with nary a strain. Images blended together like a perfectly woven tapestry. As Ove glares at the cat or frowns at the neighbour’s foolishness, you can picture it in your head, like a moving film reel.

The characterisation of Ove is something that held me all through the book. It isn’t easy to describe a curmudgeonly character and have a reader fall in love with such a person. How Backman does this is simply splendid. The way he tweaks the hidden kindness even in his apparent gruffness, the way he parts the veil on a grieving widower, the glimpses we get into the life of a lonely soul- these are snippets that will stay with me forever.

'A Man Called Ove' is a heartwarming story about a curmudgeon that holds valuable lessons. #Review Click To Tweet

When I finished the book, I had that feeling that comes with saying goodbye to a dear, dear friend. I’d fallen in love with Ove and I couldn’t bear to see the book near its conclusion. But, goodbyes are a part of life and we must make our peace with them. This happened at a time in my life when I had to let go of a friendship that meant the world to me. For a few months, I’d struggled at the notion, that this was indeed over. A part of my mind refused to acknowledge it, believing that there was a chance.

But a book like Ove showed me that this is inevitable. People move on. They outgrow you, find other people and they leave, either through death or by design. We can’t change that. We shouldn’t. We just accept it, the way it is.

Another very important thing that happened was the understanding that I could still read a book in its entirety. After months of reading only articles on the internet or blog posts, I’d read a book from start to finish.

How that happened was simple. I went away with the family on a 3-day break. We were in a place where there was no internet and practically, no mobile connectivity. Somehow, knowing that, I didn’t even bother to turn my phone on. In this period, we spent so much time together, soaking in the sights, playing badminton, table tennis and going on long walks. And of course, reading books.

So what is the solution? I can’t leave social media, considering my bread and butter comes from that space. But I can use this experience as a reminder that how I use my time is up to me. I can completely switch off for a day or two each week. I can soak in the beauty of a book, enjoy the pleasure of my family’s company and treat social media as just a useful tool and nothing more.

It was telling that I managed to finish this book as well as Ellen De Generes’ ‘Seriously, I’m kidding!’ in the last 3 days. Two books in three days after struggling to finish even a single book in the last 5 months. What does that tell you? That if I put my mind to it, I can read a book in this world of distraction and social media diversion.

When I do that, I discover once again the beauty that is writing, the pleasure that is reading and somewhere in between, I find the woman who exists in the land straddling social media and reality.

And I smile at the reflection of who I am, just a little bit more, once that discovery happens.

***

*Suggested reading:

A Man called Ove- A review of a book that splendidly combines comedy and tragedy to give a heartwarming tale that will leave you happy. Also there are some valuable lessons for readers and writers in there. Do check it out.

Note: This post contains affiliate links to the Amazon Affiliate programme. What that means is if you buy an item on the site through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you. I recommend all items only after reviewing/ using them myself.Β  If you do buy through this link, I thank you for your support.

*Featured image: Shutterstock

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28 thoughts on “‘A Man Called Ove’ & lessons in writing and reading

  1. This has been bothering me a lot in the recent times about what will happen to our reading habits, what will happen to the reading habits of the next generation .
    Will try to catch up on this book for sure

    1. You will enjoy it, Anindya. I’m sure. As for the next generation, the only solution is to keep them away from gadgets and give them books to read. Have done that for the last 11 years. Now I have a bookworm on my hands.

  2. So glad you are back to reading. The feeling of completing a book is quite something, isn’t it?

    I’ve heard so much about this book and I have it on my TBR now. The writing lessons you have mentioned is top notch. I too find that I have more zest to write once I’m back from a break.
    Soumya recently penned this post Action Replay: September 2017My Profile

    1. Tell me about it. I am completely fatigued by the one-upmanship on social media and am so glad to re-discover books. You will love this book. Trust me πŸ™‚

  3. Every now and then my friend updates her WhatsApp Status with the books she reads. She had listed this book with 3 other books. I remember asking her only about this one. There was something very inviting about this book that I asked her to tell me about it once she finishes it. It’s been on my list since then. It’s almost 3 months since she read it. You just reminded me to get it! 😊

  4. I have read so many beautiful reviews about this book. Will add this to my list as well. Glad to you had an enjoyable time off. How’s your tennis practice going on? Haven’t heard about it in a while πŸ˜€
    My reading has gone for a toss. I need to get back on the wagon if I really wish to complete the goodreads challenge.
    That second last para… It’s like you described me there. So beautifully written ❀❀
    Rajlakshmi recently penned this post 134 km of DespacitoMy Profile

  5. I keep hearing so many wonderful things about this book that I just want to go and get this right away, but then I remember I also have to get through my self-imposed quota from my pending pile first. *Sigh* The struggle (and the temptation) is real. I need to go to a book-addiction rehab.
    Shantala recently penned this post Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – Book ReviewMy Profile

  6. I want to read this book after both Tulika and you have given it glowing reviews. I don’t know when that will happen as I stare at 3 books waiting to be finished. The first one is almost done and strangely I am in no rush to complete it. I think I will read it when I find the time. πŸ™‚ So glad that you had such a lovely time away. I know exactly what you mean when you say how much these vacations nourish us. I experienced something similar in Coorg. Both G and I slept quite a bit, lazed around, chatted a lot and played together. It was so very nice and we had long talks with the hosts who were such a good family. We felt sad bidding them bye. So yes, even when I came on social media, somehow the vitriol felt very detached. I felt quite calm. I also downloaded the app you mentioned and did the 7 days of meditation. I regularly do meditation daily now. πŸ™‚

    Oh and liked your review as well. πŸ™‚

    1. Precisely the thing I felt about the vitriol. That it wasn’t worth my energy or peace of mind anymore. I’ve almost completely lost interest in Facebook these days and Insta seems to be heading in the same direction too. I really want to spend more time offline, reading, relaxing, spending family time and staying healthy. At this point, nothing else matters. So glad the Calm app is working for you. Gy also loves it πŸ™‚

      Glad you liked the review too! I rarely write these but this book deserved it πŸ™‚

  7. Thanks for the pingback. I love the book, you already know that. I am glad you brought up Henning Koch. I didn’t even guess this was a translation till I started reading up on Fredrick Backman. The book is wonderful to begin with the translation adds to it.
    By the way, welcome back – I dropped by both your blogs a day back wondering if I’d missed any of your posts. Hope I’ll see more of you.
    Obsessivemom recently penned this post Finally, A Reader!My Profile

    1. You’re welcome. I loved your review the most πŸ™‚ And it’s so good to be missed, I tell you. Both you and Anamika really know how to make my day. I’ve come back with a renewed sense of purpose with regard to blogging, relationships and social media. A regular diet of books should help me keep that going.

  8. Wow this book reviews is so tantalizing that it might just lead to me breaking my no-book-buying in 2017 pact – well written Shailja and your sentiments over the story come out loud and clear!!

  9. Loved your review (tribute :)) to the book Shailaja, it is now definitely on my list. Reading to the exclusion of all else is a habit we have sadly given up as adults though most of us have done it as children. In my case, I do still manage it quite a bit, but it also ends up making me feel guilty to have spent so much of my time away from other urgent stuff. Mostly, I manage to brush the guilt aside, of course ;).

    1. Hope you enjoy the book, Sanch πŸ™‚ It really is a delightful way to get away from the world and yet, be in it. Deliberately switching off makes so much sense.

  10. Shailaja, a friend had suggested this book to me last year. I have ordered it and am waiting for it to reach me. Your review is a tribute to the author and the book,. Looking forward to reading it.
    I too must switch off from the net and read my 50 odd books gathering dust at home πŸ™‚ I keep ordering more hoping to read them all someday soon.

  11. This is one book which is crossing my path frequently recently, first Tulika, then Falak and now you. I know I have to read this. Actually I can’t wait to start reading it. But before that I am committed. I am committed to William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain. It has been a struggle reading this one since it is way out of my comfort zone but I will finish it before returning to my comfortable world with Ove. Thank you for writing this post.
    And, (for some PDA πŸ™‚ ) I was thinking of you and wondering about your absence on Social media.

    1. Aww you sweet thing πŸ™‚ I actually have been meaning to reduce social media time for a while now. It gets in my way of too many good things like reading and writing. I will be around but maybe not as often as I used to be. Let’s see πŸ™‚

      Oh you will love this book! And perhaps the best one to break the monotony of a mountainous book πŸ˜‰

  12. I guess I need to read this book, too. If it taught you that parting ways with people who meant a lot to you is an inevitable part of life, then it is what I need to learn too!
    WIll definitely look for it, SHy. Thanks for the review!

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