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
From the extraordinary author and Swedish storyteller, Fredrik Backman, with his award-winning debut, A Man Called Ove, delivers another zany character, BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE — A heartwarming, witty celebration of second chances, unlikely friendships, and the power of one person to make the world a better place.
Britt-Marie is age 63. Amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic. Some may say eccentric. She does not like a mess. Her husband Kent said she was aggressive-passive. Known as nag-bag. All she ever wanted was a balcony. She wanted a husband who did not walk on the parquet floors with his golf shoes. If he could only put his shirt in the laundry basket and would say occasionally he liked the food.
She likes an organized cutlery drawer. Clean windows. Newly mopped floors. Her favorite “go to” must have cleaning tool of choice “bicarbonate of soda.” It wipes always all the flaws. Clean and new. Kent said she was “socially incompetent.” They were past their sell by date. She had enough. There were limits. She was leaving.
Britt-Marie likes things clean. An obsession. A need for order. Would be nice to be appreciated. Be noticed. She was critical, hard to please, judgmental, excessively particular about details. Easily disgusted. She is flawed, zany, funny, and possesses a great heart. Her compulsive tendencies are explained by her tragic past and history of being neglected and diminished by those around her.
Leaving her husband, she starts a new. She finds herself in Borg, a tiny, economically depressed “community built along a road.” Most of the town has been shut down, most of the residents have left, and the ragtag bunch remaining includes orphaned children, a criminal, a former star of the local football team (now blind), and the proprietor of the only business in town—who's in a wheelchair, and most likely an alcoholic. Plus her relationship with a rat (hilarious).
As a caretaker, her new job is a perfect fit!. She cleans and cleans. The defunct recreational Center in the fictional European town of Borg. With an array of interesting off-beat characters including two young children—Vega and Omar.
But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward misfit, is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes. Love can be found in the most unexpected of places. A place of belonging.
Equally witty and poignant; Hilarious, insightful and moving, an inspiring story about truth, second chances, and rediscovery. Best of all, another important life lesson.
On a personal note, Britt-Marie is so much like my dad. At age 85, he is still a cleaning machine. Never get in the way of his cleaning. Heaven forbid you should come to the door after the floors have been freshly vacuumed. You will not be allowed to enter. Never interfere with his schedule.
I listened to the audiobook and Joan Walker's performance was amazing! A perfect entertaining Britt-Marie.
Highly recommend Backman’s latest novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer The small book with a Big powerful important message and loads of heart! Top Novella of 2016.
About the Author
Fredrik Backman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are being published around the world in more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.
Fredrik Backman: Staying Grounded
Q&A with Fredrik Backman, courtesy of Shelf Awareness
You used to drive a forklift. How did that evolve into writing books that are loved around the world?
I don't know. It's still a mystery to everyone who knows me. I always viewed writing as a hobby, not a career choice, and, to be honest, I still do. My dad keeps telling my wife she needs to "treat the money as if Fredrik won the lottery, because this probably won't last!" I think he's got a point. I think I'll eventually go back to having a real job, and I don't really think I'll be any less happy than I am now.
About my favorite Nordic movies, tv series and books. In Swedish.
På en nyhetsajt (en finlandssvensk) läste jag en artikel som ställde frågan Vilken nordisk film tycker du är bäst genom tiderna? Den är lite svår för mig att svara på eftersom jag nog inte sett så många av de äldre filmerna och inte heller de allra senaste, men eftersom det står "tycker du" så kan jag väl ändå svara utifrån mitt perspektiv.
Jag väljer att svara även på mina favoriter bland tv-serier och böcker. Det är faktiskt en ganska svår fråga att svara på, eftersom man ju inte minns listor på det sättet. Därför blir det bara vad jag kommer på just nu. De är väl egentligen utan inbördes ordning.
Änglagård, Fanny och Alexander, Mannen på taket, Cirkeln, Italienska för nybörjare samt Fram för lilla Märta.
Jag har sett ett antal andra nordiska filmer under åren, men tyvärr är det bara de här som jag kommer på just nu.
Ebba och Didrik
Dårfinkar och dönickar
Huset Silvercronas gåta
Operation Stella Polaris
Dessutom vet jag att jag har sett flera bra norska, isländska, finländska och finska serier, men tyvärr minns jag inte så mycket om dem.
Mio min Mio
böckerna om Madicken
Tappa inte masken
Missne och Robin
Sandor slash Ida
Tordyveln flyger i skymningen
Serien om SubRosa-detektiverna
Anna Lihammers deckare - Medan mörkret faller och Än skyddar mörkret
Skämmerskans dotter Lene Kaaberbøl (och resten av serien)
Udda verklighet och Särskild av Nene Ormes
Mysteriet på Hester Hill
Böckerna om tvillingdeckarna, särskilt Frimärksmysteriet på Loberga
(och några gamla Wahlströmsböcker som jag fått av mamma och mormor men som jag inte minns så mycket om just nu)
Jag har förstås läst massor av andra svenska och andra nordiska böcker som jag inte kan komma på just nu, bland annat en serie isländska deckare som är riktigt bra. En del har jag inte tyckt så mycket om, andra var ganska bra, men jag hoppas och tror att jag inte glömt mina favoriter. Förresten kan jag nämna några gamla böcker som jag läst som liten - Vi som går köksvägen, Ett köpmanshus i skärgården och serien om Catrin Ambrosia av Alice Lyttkens. Den senare borde verkligen ges ut igen.
Ove is a deceptively complex character.
At first, he seems almost caricature-like in his crankiness. He wants things in order...if there is a sign that has rules on it, one should pay attention to it and follow it to the letter. He is set in his old ways and when those ways are changed by anything new, he gets upset...very upset.
But as his history is skillfully revealed, layer by layer, it’s clear that he’s a lonely soul longing for connection. He’s an innately good person, and his peculiar outlook on life is often laugh-out-loud funny. But to him it's a way of life. One that should be followed by everyone.
But there are things about Ove that will upset you. Well, they certainly upset me. When you delve more into his back story you see a whole other side of Ove that you just want to reach into the book and hug him. Of course, he would shrug you off the moment you try, but the feeling will always be there. The love and devotion that this angry man had will cut you to the quick.
When Ove meets his new neighbors things start to change in his life. He thinks it's for the worst, but as he starts to see things from another perspective, you start to see a change. In Ove yes, but in you as well.
There are a couple of quotes I would like to share with you that really got to me:
"People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had."
"Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t."
"We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like “if”."