Scandinavian fiction

All posts in the Scandinavian fiction category

Talking About A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman with Chrissi Reads

Published July 16, 2015 by bibliobeth

18774964

What’s it all about?:

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

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.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryand Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: The emotional strength of the novel hangs on our view of Ove. Discuss how the author draws the character.

BETH: I definitely agree about the emotional strength hanging on how we view the character. Ove is both our main character and narrator with not too many additional characters on the sidelines to hide behind. I think the author was very clever in how he created Ove as he made him very “real to life.” He was someone with a lot of flaws but also someone we could believe in with a back story that instantly tugs at your heart strings.

BETH: What did you think of the writing style of this book?

CHRISSI: I thought it was immediately engaging. I remember saying to you that I thought it had a very unique vibe about it. I was pulled into the story and found myself racing through the story. It captured my attention and kept it throughout.

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of Ove?

BETH: It might sound a little strange but actually I warmed to him almost immediately! He was an intensely grumpy, rigid old man that was completely stuck in his ways but he also had so many redeeming qualities and reasons why he acted the way he did. I think in a lot of ways, Ove was very misunderstood and he had a heart of gold and although he complained a lot I really believe it was a front that he put up to protect himself.

BETH: Discuss the relationship between Ove and his wife.

CHRISSI: The relationship between Ove and his wife really touched my heart. It was clear to me how much Ove adored his wife. It came across like Ove couldn’t believe his luck, he really didn’t seem to understand why he deserved her. They were so different to one another, yet they had such a special connection. A beautiful relationship. I found his grief over his wife to be absolutely heart-breaking.

CHRISSI: Discuss the relationship between Ove and Parvaneh.

BETH: From the moment that Ove and Parvaneh first meet – when her “idiot” husband is driving and reversing (very bady) in a clearly labelled no drive area in the neighbourhood I thought this is going to be interesting! I think Parvaneh is one of the few people that sees Ove for who he really is and genuinely worries about him, as she has cause to in the early part of this novel. I loved their quite fiery remarks to each other and the way their relationship develops to where Ove has a (grudgingly) newfound respect for her.

BETH: The author treads a fine line between humour and sadness in the novel. Which do you feel wins out?

CHRISSI: This is a tricky question, because there is such a fine line between humour and sadness. I think it’s really going to be down to individual opinion on which one wins out, but for me, I thought the sadness did. It was a heart breaking read that touched my heart, but that was because of the sadness. The absolute despair that Ove was experiencing. The love for Ove’s wife was so strong, it was hard to read about his struggles with his grief and how he felt his world was ending. I did really enjoy the humorous elements of the story though. I think this book would have been depressing without some light relief!

CHRISSI: What message did you take away from this book?

BETH: I think there were quite a few take home messages from this book and I can see why it has become a bit of a talking point. A lot of it is about not judging a person until you get to know them, respecting the older generation by realising they have had a lot of life experience and as a result can give very good advice. It’s incredibly funny and poignant as well as a beautiful love story and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I think I would. The writing was engaging and the story was touching!

 

Would WE recommend it?:

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH: But of course!

 

CHRISSI’s star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

BETH’s star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Disgrace – Jussi Adler-Olsen

Published February 10, 2015 by bibliobeth

11864960

What’s it all about?:

Kimmie’s home is on the streets of Copenhagen. To live she must steal. She has learned to avoid the police and never to stay in one place for long. But now others are trying to find her. And they won’t rest until she has stopped moving – for good. Detective Carl Mørck of Department Q, the cold cases division, has received a file concerning the brutal murder of a brother and sister twenty years earlier. A group of boarding school students were the suspects at the time – until one of their number confessed and was convicted. So why is the file of a closed case on Carl’s desk? Who put it there? Who believes the case is not solved? A police detective wants to talk to Kimmie and someone else is asking questions about her. They know she carries secrets certain powerful people want to stay buried deep. But Kimmie has one of her own. It’s the biggest secret of them all. And she can’t wait to share it with them…

What did I think?:

I bought this book on a bit of a whim years ago after being intrigued by the synopsis of the story. I finally got round to reading it last year and initially have to admit to being slightly wary as the translation didn’t really seem to gel. However, when I got used to the writing style I was captivated by the twists and turns of the plot and fascinated by the characters. First of all we have Detective Carl Mørck, who works in the cold cases division of Department Q, an arrogant “lone wolf” who prefers to work around as little people as possible and as a result is stuck with Assad, a hapless and yet hilarious assistant whose stumbles and utterings gave me quite a few chuckles – but is he is naive as he seems?

Carl stumbles over an old case file twenty years old, accidentally on purpose left on his desk describing the brutal murder of a brother and sister. Why was it left on his desk however when the case has been apparently solved? When Carl looks into it further he finds out that a group of students from an elite boarding school were suspected until one of their number confessed and is now behind bars. Case closed, right? Well, not exactly. It turns out this very exclusive group of high rolling men with a lot of money have a guard up against them that is iron-tight and pretty much impossible to penetrate.

Could the necessary link in this case be Kimmie? Unlike the group of men, she has been living rough on the streets, having to steal each day to survive. What is she hiding from and what is her secret connected to the group? Things turn out to become very dangerous for Kimmie as Carl re-opens the file, discovers her link to the men and attempts to find and talk to her. It’s time for some seriously dodgy skeletons to emerge from the closet and secrets that many thought long ago buried to be unearthed.

There are some absolutely brilliant characters in this book, from the humorous Assad to the fiercely strong and independent Kimmie that I fell in love with as the story progressed. Bear in mind though that it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted, there are some incredibly violent and shocking scenes, some of which made my skin crawl which I found surprising as I class myself as quite a hardened crime reader. We learn about Kimmie’s harrowing past and the reasons behind her living on the streets, constantly running and hiding from those that would do her harm. In fact, when the reader discovers her murky past (which keeps getting all the murkier and darker) it beggars belief that she has survived in her current situation so far. For me, she’s probably the ultimate “anti-heroine,” and it’s quite refreshing to read about someone that has made mistakes and will probably make more, yet comes across as an admirable human being.

Also published as The Absent One, this is the second in the author’s Department Q series which I didn’t realise until I came to read it, but can easily be read as a stand-alone. Reading this novel gives you access to the kind of evil you didn’t realise humanity was capable of, perpetuated by the most warped of minds. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it as a must-read Scandinavian crime novel for fans of the genre. I’m also now fully intending to purchase the first book in this series and watch out for any future books from this talented writer who made this story one to remember.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0