A MAN CALLED OVE
Washington Square Press
Translated from Swedish by Henning Koch
Ms. Hen read this novel because she was planning to watch the movie, but someone told her the book was much better. That’s usually the case, so Ms. Hen read the book and watched the movie. The book is more detailed, of course, and funnier than the movie.
A MAN CALLED OVE is about a man who has recently lost his wife, and afterwards, his job. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he decides to end his life. The novel is a journey about his finding reasons to live, and learning to keep his head above water.
The first time he tries to take his life, his new neighbors back a trailer into his mailbox. Ove gets angry that the husband doesn’t know how to drive properly. Ove is a person who thinks there is a right and wrong way to do things, and expects people know the correct procedure for everything. He scoffs at the wife when he discovers that she cannot drive, and doesn’t understand why anyone would buy a car other than a Saab.
Ove keeps trying to commit suicide, but he never manages to do so. Something always gets in his way. Throughout the novel, Ms. Hen also learns about his life with his wife, how he met her, and their relationship, and her problems. Ms. Hen thinks the book is very sad, and she found herself tearing up in public while she was reading it, which she found embarrassing, since she doesn’t think a grown hen should cry while reading a book in public.
Ove is a curmudgeon. Ms. Hen understands that men can be like this, and she has known some in her life. They think the world should be one way, and if things aren’t that way, they get frustrated and angry. Ms. Hen understands that men can be very linear, that their minds only go in one direction, this way or that way. Ove’s wife Sonja, is a typical woman, she is a teacher and loves to read. She and Ove find happiness and love, though they are different.
Ms. Hen liked this novel, but she didn’t love it too much. She found the characters and situations a little too nice and pleasant for her taste. She prefers a novel to have an edge to it. She understands why A MAN CALLED OVE is very popular in book clubs. It’s the kind of novel that women like to read, non-offensive, with nothing disturbing about it, and no darkness. There is sadness, but not desperation. Ms. Hen prefers a novel to take her over a cliff.
Ms. Hen thinks this is a women’s novel, even though it is by and about a man. Ms. Hen believes that a women’s novel can be anything that is soft and non-threatening, which she takes A MAN CALLED OVE to be.
Ms. Hen understands why people love this book. It’s nice, and that’s it. It made Ms. Hen tear up in public, but she found it too sentimental. In her writing workshops, Ms. Hen was taught not to be sentimental in her work. Ms. Hen doesn’t know if this is a universal concept, but either way, it sells books. Ms. Hen would rather lose her breath with excitement, than be too cozy in her reading life.