A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

The word “curmudgeonly” was invented for Ove, the central character in this extraordinary comedy set in Sweden.

A Man Called Ove

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.

Film review: Bridge of Spies

Bridge_of_Spies_poster.jpgWell, I’ve always said that the truth makes the best stories, and Bridge of Spies is no exception. It’s a Cold War tale that tells the story of the first (that we know of) prisoner exchange between the US and USSR. Tom Hanks plays the role of James Donovan, a lawyer defending a Russian spy captured in  United States. He succeeds in keeping him off Death Row, which is just as well, because round about the same time a US spy plane is shot down over Russian airspace. To complicate matters, an American student finds himself trapped on the wrong side of the recently constructed Berlin Wall…

Donovan is approached by the CIA and asked to facilitate an exchange with the USSR: their spy for our pilot. Should have been simple, but it’s not enough for a man as principled as Donovan; he wants the student too.

Tom Hanks starring, Steven Spielberg directing … What can go wrong? Fortunately, nothing. This film is brilliant, no two ways about it. A political thriller that demonstrates that the bravest men are the quiet ones. It’s superbly shot, the script manages some real elements of humour without going overboard, and the acting from all players is superb. It blistered along at a hell of place too, showing that Mr Spielberg is well aware how difficult to hold folks’ attention these days. Marvellous stuff.

Nine out of Ten.