Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Man Called Ove

Book: A Man Called Ove -  Fredrik Backman

Members present: Cindi, Linda, Terrie, Christy, Karin

Venue: Terrie's lovely abode

Discussion highlights:

We had a small but talkative group for our meeting, which adjourned at 11:30 pm! Excellent food, great conversation, and great venue!

We had a high completion rate for the book--4 out of 5 of the members present finished it, and 3 of the 4 who read it also watched the movie. If you haven't done either, I strongly recommend that you do both. We all agreed that it is up there with our favorite books of all time. It is a quick read, and some people chose to finish it in one day, while others tried to make it last as long as possible. Sort of like the opposite of the ripping off the Band Aid thing. I assume that the book was originally not written in English, which is surprising because it is very well-written. It has a unique voice, and I suspect that's part of the appeal. The chapters are short and each chapter has a memorable anecdote. Even though the story sounds like it's going to be a real downer, since it starts with Ove deciding to kill himself, and a lot of sad, tragic things do happen, but somehow the overall tone of the book is light and funny. Laugh out loud hilarious, in fact. Maybe it's because each chapter has a title and a drawing. How tragic can a book be that has a drawings in it?

Plus his suicide attempts were foiled by people who needed his help. Because they needed rides to hospitals after their husband fell off a ladder while trying to open a window from the outside. (Ove totally knew that was going to happen and didn't stop him so it's only fair that he had to take them to the hospital). Or because someone had fallen on the train tracks before he got a chance to jump. Or because a gay guy who was disowned after he came out to his dad needed a place to stay. Cindi described Ove as being someone who put up a front that he wasn't a caring guy, and everyone went along with it to humor him, but they knew he had a big heart. Too big, unfortunately.

This is not one of those times where you would want to cheat and see the movie instead of reading the book because I thought the tone of the book was lost in the movie, even though I thought the movie was very good. It has subtitles, just as a forewarning. And Ove's name isn't pronounced the way you were probably saying it in your head while you were reading. It took a while for Karin to realize they were even saying his name, because it does sort of sound like an expression, like hey.

Cindi pointed out that Sweden was a socialist country, which admittedly, I did not know, and all of the red tape and complaints about the white shirts refers to Ove's anger at the government for all of the real and perceived injustices he suffered. Taking away his house. The lack of compensation for the bus accident. The lack of wheelchair accommodations. Trying to put Rune away from his wife. (But Ove got the white shirts back on that one! Ha ha!)

I was annoyed that they made up some of the dialogue, because there's plenty of great dialogue in the book that they cut out. And the lines they made up were not of the same quality. But some of the details in the movie that they elaborated on were well done--like the scene where he got laid off and they gave him a shovel as a retirement gift. The bus accident scene was also very good in that it really highlighted how tragic it was. And his wife was even lovelier in the movie than she sounded in the book.

We also had a chance to talk about our last book, When Breath Becomes Air. One of the advantages of a smaller group and intimate venue. Although I like it when everyone shows up and we eat out, too.

Next book:

Our next book will be The Couple Next Door, by Shari LapeƱa. Since co-hosting went so well this time, thanks to Terrie, we will do the same thing for our July meeting. Linda has chosen the book and will set the date, Cindi will bring in some traditional book club info to raise us even further above the remedial status, and Terrie has agreed to provide her home again and do the pot luck details. We are aiming for the last week of July.

Until then, happy reading!