Report on A Man Called Ove

A smaller than normal group convened for ruminations on a Man Called Ove last Wednesday and thanks for the submissions in advance of the meeting.
Ove sparked great discussion both via email and also in person so in that was certainly a good choice for provocation. As the final votes will show it cast a divided appreciation. I think Joe’s remarks occupied that middle group of enjoyed but not moved and set a marker of 5/5.5 for such a performance.

On one extreme Jim was drawn to cease reading after becoming disgusted by the author’s humour that appeared to rest on cheap jibes at the expense of the mentally, physically or temporally challenged. While Mike (although enjoying the book) challenged the trigger that lead to the transformation in Ove and struggled to find a real explanation in the narrative. As a result he was left questioning whether the author went far enough to really justify such a marked change in behaviour.  Multiple hands indicated that it came across as formulaic and too reliant on a predictable but possibly not well developed cast of characters – where others possibly had some pictures in mind of these and superimposed them on what they were reading. Declan, your reference to Gran Torino was brilliant and now my retrospective placement of Clint Eastwood as Ove is bang on ;-)
Also identified were flaws in construction that Mike felt might have benefited from better editing of a debut novel but that Jim felt really broke it for him. Ove’s inability to successfully commit suicide because he couldn’t get the hook in the right place yet could calculate the load bearing capacity of a beam at the drop of hat…hmmm.
Nonetheless, it was evocative for some – myself included – and effectively caught the anger of an ageing man increasingly unable to control his life circumstances in a world that he had either been able to in the past or had developed a mindset to slough off.
I admit that I read it a second time for the club following seeing the movie (which I will continue to recommend) and enjoyed it even more. I felt that the twist in his behaviour was very carefully orchestrated in the gradual reveal of how he came to be where he was an the creation of an environment though a very special character (Parvaneh) who in conjunction with the existing assortment lead to a rediscovery and ultimately the family that Ove felt he had been denied. Nonetheless, it was clearly a work that operated on a very personal level and resulted in a vastly divergent opinions…
So to the voting:

Previously submitted votes were received from:
Joe: 5.5
Fergal: 4.5
Brian M: 6
and Declan: 7.0
Present and voting were:
Brian C: 8
Mike: 6.5
Jim: declined after finishing at 40%
Shawn: 8.5
The computed average giving it 6.5 for respectable but probably catching Joe’s Meh.
There was a very brief discussion surrounding our second fiction read for August – Solar Bones – and it was decided that as there had been little progress (amongst those present or online) towards completion  that it would be carried over for further discussion in September.
Nominated for September Non-Fiction read are (and as always give me great suggestions for additional reads ;-):
Declan: Pale Rider by Laura Spinney
Joe: Flaws in the Ice: In Search of Douglas Mawson by David Day
Jim: The Descent of Man by Greyson Perry
Brian C: Dark Money by Jane Mayer
Mike: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

The book selected after extensive deliberation, discussion and impeccable polling is:

The Descent of Man by Greyson Perry


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