Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Mini Reviews: A Man Called Ove || Britt-Marie Was Here










A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


Pages: 337
Genre: Adult literary fiction / humor
Publication Date: August 2012

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 him “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, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.


The Good: At first, Ove seems like that awful old dude who lives in every neighborhood. You know, the guy who complains if your garden is ugly and shouts at the kids who step on his lawn. As the story unfolds, Ove becomes more understandable. He has reasons for his bitter attitude. He’s never been good at relating to other people, and he has just lost his wife, the only person who ever made an effort to understand him. I kind of hated Ove at the beginning of the book, but by the end, I grudgingly respected him. He’s had a long, difficult life. Ove is far from perfect, though. He has a vicious streak, especially when it comes to annoying animals. He’s a complicated guy.

Ove’s story shows that there are multiple ways to have compassion for others. Ove doesn’t have close friends, but he can tell what’s happening in his neighbors’ lives based on what kind of cars they buy. Even though he’s not social with his neighbors, he does take care of them in small ways. Sometimes small actions can make a huge difference in someone’s life.


He went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets.A Man Called Ove



The Bad: I can tell that A Man Called Ove is Backman’s debut novel. It doesn’t seem as polished as his later work. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the plot is repetitive and predictable. The book probably could have been much shorter.

For me, the ending is too sweet and perfect. I had a hard time believing that old curmudgeon Ove would become so extroverted. At the beginning of the book, he’s suicidal and barely speaks to anybody. At the end, he lets his neighbors barge into his house whenever they want (which is constantly). The change is too drastic for me.




The Bottom Line: A sweet, sad, funny, well-written story about neighbors looking out for each other. It may require some suspension of disbelief.
















Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman


Pages: 324
Genre: Adult literary fiction / humor
Publication Date: October 2014

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes.

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?


The Good: This is a standalone novel, but if you’ve read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, then you’ll recognize the awkwardly honest Britt-Marie and her coffee-obsessed husband Kent. Britt-Marie was one of my favorite characters in My Grandmother Asked Me. I was excited to learn that she has her own book. I was even more excited when I found out that in this novel, she leaves her cheating husband and strikes out on her own.

Even though this book deals with serious subjects—like divorce and orphaned children—it’s still really funny. After a series of somewhat ridiculous events, Britt-Marie accidentally becomes the coach of the worst youth soccer team in Sweden. Britt-Marie is useless as a coach, but coaching gives her the opportunity to learn who she is as a single woman. At the beginning of the book, she’s embarrassed about her divorce and constantly spouts Kent’s ideas at people. She’s basically just a mini-me version of her husband. Over the course of the story, she becomes independent. She develops her own ideas about who she wants to be.

Also, Britt-Marie taught me that my cutlery drawer is improperly organized. Sorry, Britt-Marie, I don’t feel bad about it.


An unreasonable amount of paperwork is required these days just to be a human being.Britt-Marie Was Here



The Bad: I think I would have appreciated this book more if I knew something about soccer. I was just as lost as Britt-Marie with all the soccer talk. I feel like there were inside jokes that I missed.

I have a problem with most of Backman’s books: I think his humor goes too far sometimes. It crosses the line from funny to stupid. There are a few scenes in this book (and in other Backman books) where I thought he could dial it down.

If you don’t like open-ended novels, then you should avoid this one. I was hoping for more resolution at the end. I understand why it was open-ended. Britt-Marie is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. But, there are important questions left unanswered.




The Bottom Line: It’s never too late to change everything. I liked Britt-Marie Was Here less than My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, but more than A Man Called Ove.











27 comments:

  1. Books where the humour goes a little too far - so unsettling but I'm glad you enjoyed the Author's later works :) Goes to show how much you need to write to improve your writing :)

    Great Reviews! I love the matching covers :)

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  2. Both of these sound quite interesting. I've heard quite a lot about A Man Called Ove recently. I might enjoy it as I appreciate grumpy old people!

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    1. If you like reading about grumpy old people, they you’ll like both of these books.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I so need to read his books. I think I would be a fan but interested to see what I think of his humor. Great reviews!

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  4. I really enjoyed Britt-Marie. I remember being so sad, when I found out what really brought Britt-Marie to that town. And I loved the connections she made there. I found it very heartwarming. I would have liked a little different ending, but I really enjoyed this lovely story.

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    1. I was sad too! I was especially sad that she was so embarrassed about ending her marriage to a horrible guy. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about leaving a bad place.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. I think I would enjoy A Man Called Ove. I really liked The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which is also about a widower.

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    1. I’ll have to look up that book. I haven’t heard of it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. I really enjoyed A Man Called Ove, but I think that's because Ove reminded me of someone I know and love.

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    1. Ove reminded me of people I know, too! He’s a realistic character.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. Oh I'm terrible with sport books.😂I read a few of them (and do like some!) but half the time I'm like: WHY. Why would one kick a ball when they could read...smh.😂Anyway I haven't read either of these, but I do like the name Ove for some reason, so that first one sounds intriguing! Maybe like a different spin on Scrooge?😂

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    1. I know! I don’t understand why people play sports. They’re hard and painful. I like the name Ove, too. The book was originally written in Swedish, so I wonder if the name is more common in Sweden?

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. I've got My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry and A Man Called Ove on my TBR... From your post, I assume I should read My Grandmother if I'm only going to read one?

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    1. Yes! My Grandmother Asked was one of my favorite books last year.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I haven't read any Fredrick Backman yet but should probably give them a try. Sounds like I might not get along with all the humour, but I like the story ideas.

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    1. I laughed a lot while reading the books, but there are a few times where I think the humor gets stupid instead of funny.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. I've never seriously considered picking up A Man Called Ove, but I've been super intrigued by it anyway. I'm sorry to hear that it was repetitive - that drives me crazy! I'm not into soccer either (at all). I don't think either of these are for me, but thanks for sharing!

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    1. I was nervous about reading these books because they don’t completely sound like my kind of thing, but I was surprised. I mostly liked them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. I love the covers for these books!

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    1. Aren’t they perfect? They really fit the stories.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  12. Great reviews! I haven't read anything by this author but I really want too! A Man Called Ove does sound predictable and unrealistic though.

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  13. Loved My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I didn’t mind A Man Called Ove. I thought while he was a grump, he was out going until his wife died. You are not yourself when you are suicidal. What I didn’t like the randomness of the middle. Your right though about his writing improving with each book. Great reviews! ♥️

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  14. I am going to read both of these because I loved My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry. It's a shame that the ending to the second one isn't so closed because I am not a fan of open endings or lack of resolutions at all. I think I'd be able to handle the humor though!

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  15. I listened to Ove on audio book and the production wasn't the best. I have seen the movie though and it was brilliant.

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  16. I feel like football (soccer) in books tends to be poorly written - so if there was anything to enjoy, too often it's made dull and confusing.

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