This is a beautiful little book, sharply written and acutely observed it tells the story of Ove, a man who in his quest to die finds reasons to live. Ove is initially presented as a grumpy neighbour who believes himself surrounded by complete idiots however as more and more is revealed about his past and his marriage to his beloved wife Sonja it becomes clear there is far more to him than that. There isn’t so much a plot in this book as a gentle description of one man, his history and his present day encounters with those around him. It’s hard to say much about the story without spoiling it but it’s a book about grief, about the hole death leaves in life and the power of relationships to help fill that hole to the point that life can be lived again. It’s about love, the love in a marriage over time and the love between friends, old and new. It’s about what makes people who they are and the choices they make about what will define them. It’s all of these things yet never obviously or clumsily, it’s witty and moving with brilliantly observed characters. It’s impossible not to love Ove by the end. Sometimes a book arrives in your life at exactly the right time and for that reason will always stand out as extra special, for me this was one of those books. It’s powerful in it’s own quiet way and definitely worth a read.
This was my book group book for this month, I had read it last summer so didn’t feel the need to re read, and didn’t have time either as I was far too busy with new books, however listening to the chat at book group tonight I did think maybe I should have done as I had clearly forgotten quite a lot about it! Interestingly what I had remembered, even over and above some of the central parts of the plot, was how much I disliked the main character! The story is told from three points of view – Anna , Megan and Rachel which results in some jumping about in time requiring attention to the chapter headings to avoid confusion! The main narrator Rachel has lost her job but continues to take her old train into the city and home again in the evening everyday, usually with a drink, to keep up the appearance of working to her flatmate, a fairly pointless endeavour as she doesn’t seem very interested in her life anyway. Every day this train passes the house Rachel used to share with her husband Tom who now lives there with his new wife Anna and their child. Passing this every day must torment Rachel and the fact that she has no job or much of a life obviously contributes to her lack of self worth and excessive drinking but I often found myself wishing she would sort herself out. Doors along from her old house live another couple who Rachel does not know but passing them every day and witnessing tiny snippets of their relationship she begins to make up a story about the perfect live she imagines them to have. As a concept I quite like this however it’s execution I found a bit tedious. Things turn sinister when it transpires the female from this house, Megan, has gone missing. Rachel, feeling that she knows them and having seen Megan kiss another man, becomes involved in trying to find out what’s happened to her. After quite a slow build up the story does become a bit more gripping but again I found myself frustrated with Rachel as she gets herself in some pretty stupid and potentially dangerous situations. The book finally starts to race along to it’s conclusion which although satisfying in that it wraps everything up is also not satisfying as one of the ladies in my book group said “because it doesn’t make you feel good”. I think this is really spot on for how I felt about this read. I didn’t care for the characters, although the story itself is quite good it didn’t grip me the way other thrillers have and I was glad to finish it because I could stop reading it rather than glad to finish because I was desperate to know what happened. The feeling throughout my book group was similar, no one hated it but no one loved it either, there were were a few comments along the lines of “we have read worse”, not the most positive of endorsements! I know this book got a lot of hype when it first came out and I know people who have loved it but personally I really can’t see what the fuss is about.