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review 2017-03-25 18:03
A love stronger than anything in the background of recent LGBT Swedish history
Last Winter's Snow - Hans M. Hirschi

I received an ARC copy of this book prior to its publication and I voluntarily decided to review it.

This is not the first novel written by Hans Hirschi I’ve read. I’ve read The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, The Opera House, Willem of the Tafel, Spanish Bay… and, different as they are, have enjoyed them all. Mr Hirschi has the ability to create believable and engaging characters the readers care for, and he places them in backgrounds and situations that put them to the test. Sometimes the situation and the background might be familiar to a lot of readers, whilst on other occasions, we might know little about the place or the world they live in. And, Mr Hirschi’s books always draw attention to discrimination and oppression, making us question our beliefs and attitudes. This book is dedicated ‘to the oppressed minorities of the world’ and all the books I’ve read by this author could bear the same dedication.

I must confess to knowing little about the Sami community and their land, Sápmi, other than the images most of us might have of snow, reindeer and colourful clothing. The book opens with Nilas waking up to find his husband, Casper, dead in bed next to him. (I don’t consider this a spoiler, as it’s how the novel starts, after a brief introduction into Sami’s culture and history, and anybody who checks the beginning of the book will see it). Most of the rest of the book is taking up by his memories of his relationship with Casper, in chronological order, from 1982, when Nilas, a native Sami, goes to study in Stockholm, until the present. At the beginning of the story, he knows he’s gay but within his community, he hasn’t had much chance to experience what that mean in full, although he’s told his parents about it. One of the beauties of the book is that, although initially shocked by the news, his parents, from a tiny and many would think old-fashioned and traditional community, accept it (in fact, he discovers one of his uncles is also gay). At the other end of the spectrum, Casper, a Swedish student he meets in a bar in Stockholm, although living in a bigger community and seemingly a more cosmopolitan society, has not dared to tell his parents he’s gay as they are very religious and intolerant of anything other than what they see as the natural order. Nilas and Casper are made from each other, and the novel chronicles their relationships through episodes that illustrate events they go through, on many occasions linking them to events for the LGBT community in Sweden at large. We live with Nilas and Casper through the alarm of the AIDS epidemic, the uncertainty and the fear that an illness that seemed to target a specific group of the population created at the time. We also follow them through changes in career and moves, through the recognition of registered partnership and eventually gay marriage, through family disappointments, trips, success, heartache, illness and ultimately, death.

The relationship between Niles and Casper serves as a microcosm of the gay experience and history in Sweden (and, although with some differences, in many Western world countries). Theirs is an ideal relationship, their love stronger than anything. Although they are tested by external events, society, family, and work, they are committed to each other, exclusive and faithful from the beginning. (Perhaps this is an idealised relationship where there are some differences of opinion but these are quickly resolved and they are together against the world, especially at the beginning of the relationship). They are discriminated against at work, they have to face the AIDS crisis, family hostility (Casper eventually tells his family and he was right when he thought they wouldn’t accept it), assaults, put downs, incomprehension, insults, frustrations… They also find people who accept them and love them for who they are, mostly, at least at the beginning, people who have gay friends or relatives. And it’s true that studies show that exposure and knowledge are the best ways to fight discrimination and oppression. The lack of knowledge, the fear of anything or anybody different and unknown, the us against them mentality and the labelling as ‘other’ of those who aren’t like us are a sure recipe for intolerant attitudes.

The book is written in the third person, from Nilas’s point of view, and it contains beautiful descriptions of places (Sápmi, Stockholm and Gothenburg, the Maldives, Swedish islands, the house they move into…), reflections on nature, landscape, the importance of tradition, and what makes a place home and a people, our family and our community. We sometimes have to go a long way to discover who we really are and where we belong to. Mr Hirschi manages to balance the showing and telling by combining very personal experiences with more subjective and spiritual reflections.

I enjoyed the setting, the discovery of a place and a people I knew very little about (and judging by the author’s note at the end, I’d love to get to know more) and the way the characters and the story merge seamlessly to provide a personal, political (indeed, the personal is the political) and social chronicle of the recent events in LGBT history in Sweden. I particularly enjoyed the way Casper is adopted by the Sami community and how there is a parallel made between different types of oppression. This is an excellent book that could help younger generations understand recent LGBT history and will also raise consciousness about oppression and intolerance in general. And, we sure need it more than ever.

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review 2017-01-07 01:14
A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman
  I loved this book. Ove says what so many of us think but he has a heart of gold beneath his gruff exterior.

This is an excellent character study. When the neighbors start coming around Ove, he is not pleased but they grow on him. Actually, he cannot get rid of them no matter what he does. He wants to join his wife but there is always someone he needs to straighten out and teach so he cannot join her just yet. He's a plain spoken man but so lovable. You learn of him through flashbacks with his wife and neighbors who moved in at the same time he did. Then you see his actions with his current neighbors.

The story reminds me of the movie, Steel Magnolias. One minute you are laughing then something happens to make you cry then Ove says or does something and you are laughing again. Ove is not a man you can walk away from. They don't make them like him anymore.
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review 2016-12-14 01:49
Take a minute and hug the cranky folks in your life
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman

I had to wait what felt like a decade but I finally got to see what all the hype was about when I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. This is a Swedish to English translation so I went into this one fairly confident I was going to love it based on my track record. (For example, I read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared last year.) And I was right! The story centers on Ove who everyone sees as a cranky old man completely set in his own ways aka a total curmudgeon. However, the reader gets to see what goes on behind closed doors and so from the very start we know that all Ove wants is to kill himself. (This is a very funny book, trust me.) Yes, he wants to commit suicide except that every time he turns around someone in the neighborhood is approaching him with a problem. He's Mr. Fix-It in a pair of clogs. A man born of routines and logic is soon forced into a group of people who use those dreaded things called feelings to inform all of their decisions. We get to discover who Ove really is through flashbacks as well as his reactions to those around him. For a man that doesn't seem to hold much stock in that feeling malarkey it's soon readily apparent that he's not some automaton obsessed with Saab automobiles. (Although he really is obsessed with Saab vehicles.) It's a reminder that surface impressions are generally completely erroneous and that still waters truly run deep. This is such a beautifully wrought story bursting at the seams with heart and humor. If you're looking for a great character study with a lot of biting wit then I think this one is for you. 10/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-11-06 07:26
A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman
ISBN: 9781476738017
Publisher: Atria 
Publication Date: 7/15/2014 
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 Stars

 

Fredrik Backman has created a unique brand, with his own genre and collection of quirky humorous characters, with light-hearted, and deeply moving stories.

It all started with the sensational debut, A MAN CALLED OVE, (pronounced OO-va), now a film, recently released in the US, featured in the latest Oct 2016, New York Times article . What an inspiring story!

I read the author's latest this weekend, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer his first novella and was hooked! (My favorite Novella of 2016, and my favorite of his books, thus far). I actually have read and reread it several times. It will touch your heart. As usual, I tend to start with the latest release and work my way backward.

Immediately, following the novella, quickly completed a Backman backlist "binge" weekend read; listening to all his books via audio to catch up. Currently reading My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Will be catching up with reviews.

Each story is unique, deeply moving, and comes with big important life message. All of Backman’s stories are about real people, in different turning points of their lives, most alone and starting over. However, they find a new way to approach life and look differently at those around them.

 



Featured in A MAN CALLED OVE, is a grumpy miserable man, age 59. He loves his Saab, and of course, knows nothing about computers or technology. He is very rigid and wants everyone to follow his rules. He does not like change.

His wife, Sonia died earlier and she was the only one who could keep him in line. (A beautiful back story). Life is not worth living without his soul-mate and wants to join her in the afterworld. He misses her. He talks to her constantly.

However, a young couple and their children move in next door, plus all sorts of tragic news, including his oldest friend going to a nursing home.

His suicide plans have to take a back seat while dealing with one conflict after another. He is set in his ways and wants things his way. From turning off his radiators, canceling his newspaper subscription and even went so far as to anchor a hook into the ceiling to hang himself.

But he keeps getting interrupted by his clueless, prying neighbors. He strikes up a friendship with an Iranian immigrant and her two young daughters, who find Ove’s grumpiness endearing. However, underneath this rough exterior, the man is quite generous, with a heart of gold.

If you are in the US, some may see some similarities with (2008) Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” character, Walt. Both leading men; grumpy widowers, retired; very rigid, leading a solitary life, miserable lives. Both wives have recently died. They do not fit in today’s world. They despise their neighbors. They both love their cars (Eastwood, 1972 Gran Torino).

However, in the end, both leading men, develop unlikely friendships, and they take their neighbors under their wing and become the hero in the end. (Of course, A Man Called Ove, lacks all the violence, included in Grand Torino, and the storylines are totally different). However, fun parallels; to see the hardest of men turn soft in a positive, admirable way.

Highly recommend the Swedish blogger’s endearing, charming entire book collection. Can’t wait to see what comes next. (Love the branding, and covers).

Can you believe, this is four years later, “A Man Called Ove” has sold more than 2.8 million copies worldwide, making the book one of Sweden’s most popular literary exports since Stieg Larsson’s thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

“Ove” became a blockbuster in Sweden, selling more than 840,000 copies. It was adapted into a successful stage production and an award-winning Swedish feature film, which recently opened in the US. In the US, the book landed on the bestseller list for 18 months. After first published and has remained for 42 weeks! Reprinted 40 times and has sold more than a million copies in print.”

This recent post by Writer Ilana sums up Backman’s writing perfectly: The Magic of Fredrik Backman"

“In his writing, Backman demonstrates a sense of positivity in the world, even while describing desperate circumstances. He covers up horror with humor but allows sadness and pain to have their time on the page as well, once his characters have developed enough of a closeness with each other to be able to experience it together. There is a kind of central thesis to his books in this: pain is something to be shared, something that is far harder to deal with alone and that is often pushed down or ignored or dealt with matter-of-factly when one doesn’t have a support network.”


Well said! Atria definitely has discovered an award-winning much loved Scandinavian Star (the US has embraced). What a success!! "He Wins Hearts on the Page and Now on the Screen!" Movie Trailer

Reading Group Guide.
An ideal book club pick.

 

The narrator, George Newbern (audiobook) delivered a captivating performance.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/01/A-Man-Called-Ove
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text 2016-09-17 15:41
Kindle Review
A Death in Sweden - Kevin Wignall

*Book source ~ Kindle First

 

A former MI6 agent and CIA contractor, Dan Hendricks is now a free agent, doing jobs for whoever has the money to pay him. His specialty is finding and acquiring fugitives, but when former agents, his friends, start turning up dead he realizes his time is running out. With a lifeline thrown his way by a former boss he sets out on his most important mission yet - find out who Jacques Fillon truly was and why he was hiding in Sweden. If Dan can do that maybe he’ll have the leverage he needs to erase the target off his back.

 

For a thriller this was more suspenseful than thrilling. There is plenty of intrigue and lots of gore and killing, but there are also some really slow parts that tend to distract from the main story. Especially the romance which had me rolling my eyes. Is Dan Hendricks supposed to be James Bond? *snorts* But the plot did keep me interested from beginning to end. Who was this Jacques Fillon? Why did he save a random stranger on a bus? Why is the CIA interested in him and why are they killing off former agents or those who did their dirty work even though they weren’t a security risk? So many questions and the answers will eventually be revealed. All-in-all a decent read.

 

Source: imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com/2016/09/kindle-review-death-in-sweden.html
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