The word “curmudgeonly” was invented for Ove, the central character in this extraordinary comedy set in Sweden.
Following the death of his wife, Ove decides to end his life. Unfortunately, everyone else’s life seems to get in the way. One person of his neighbours is pregnant and has a husband who is a little useless; another neighbour has a husband who suffers from dementia; and then there’s the neighbour with the annoying dog. Ove hates all of them, and people who drive BMWs.
So what changes him? Well that’s what the story is about. Ove’s life is detailed through flashbacks which are conveniently kept as separate chapters from the present. A simple trick that makes the whole story easy to follow. Likewise, the prose is simple, straightforward and very funny. And I do mean funny; I found myself laughing out loud at pretty much every page. The characters were well drawn and consistent, occasionally unpredictable, but not in a bad way. Sometimes, people surprise us.
Ove is funny and heartbreaking. A brilliantly exploration of life and loss. Definitely worth a read before the Tom Hanks movie lands.
This is one slots in the bookshelf under Speculative Fiction with Ridiculously Big Numbers (subsection: Epic). And a book with numbers as big as this can’t really be told as a straight novel, so Baxter has written two stories for the price of one.
The first story features John Hackett, an emotionally-troubled astronaut tasked with exploring the Andromeda Galaxy. For him, it’ll be a short hop: about thirty years or so, which he’ll spend asleep, travelling in a spaceship the size of Jupiter. But due to time dilation, by the time he returns to Earth, millions of years will have passed.
The second thread was a little more intriguing: Mela is a young woman growing up on an Earth-like planet that is slowly dissolving. As the land disappears, the one hundred million inhabitants are forced to travel northward to wait for the end of everything.