Monthly Archives: November 2016

‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman

a-man-called-ovestarstarstarstarstarFull marks for this translation from Sweden. It’s a hilarious life affirming and heartbreaking story much like Olive Kitteridge or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It seems that Ove (rhymes with groove with a ‘uh’ sound afterwards [oo-vuh]–see pronunciation video below) is a nasty, grumpy old man but he also has a great capacity for love. People are not always what they seem and if they behave in a certain way, there may well be a very good reason for that. This does not excuse bad behaviour but it does remind us to show grace and not make assumptions about people too quickly. Ove-rarching themes in the novel (sorry, couldn’t resist) are that love and loss are the stuff of life and community is key. Looking forward to more by this author! There is a film adaptation in Swedish with English subtitles, which I haven’t seen, but hope to find.

‘The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds’ by Alexander McCall Smith (Isabel Dalhousie #9)

the-uncommon-appeal-of-cloudsstarstarstarRecently a friend, who is an avid reader, commented to me that because she is in a distracted time in her life, she was finding it hard to focus on novels. That certainly has happened to me before too. She went on to say that the Smith series were so valuable to her during this time because they are so easy to read, approachable, and comforting, while still being full of really worthwhile stuff.

This is the genius of Smith’s series, whether it is the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, Isabel Dalhousie, or 44 Scotland Street… Smith’s everyday moral dilemmas, amusing commentary on human life, and situational humour, paired with his easy storytelling style make for such an enjoyable reading experience. And of course a series is immediately effortless because it simply carries on with characters that we already know. One of the perks of living in England for a few years, was being able to go to a lovely bookstore in London once a year to listen to ‘Sandy’ Smith talk about his books and his characters. With great charm and mirth he would talk about what his characters were up to now and what interesting situations they might be getting into in future, as if they were all perfectly real and part of our family. We, an audience full of strangers, were all chuckling right along with him.

This instalment in a series about an insatiably curious Scottish philosopher, has Isabel sorting out a high stakes crime, though weirdly without much peril or suspense. Somehow she attracts people who ask her to be involved in sleuthing out their mysteries. She usually manages to use the right combination of good sense, quick wits, and a kind heart to come to the right conclusion in the end.

‘Tigers in Red Weather’ by Liza Klaussmann

tigers-in-red-weatherstarstar“Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha’s Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their ‘real lives’: Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war.”

The only reason I finished this East Coast family saga was because it is a book club assignment. The book was very disappointing in almost every way. There is some intrigue around a murder, a resident psychopath, and some infidelities, but  the author doesn’t use these things to sustain any kind of narrative drive. The writing is banal, the characters are just self-indulgent rich people, and the story line is basically non-existent. The murder is brutal and shocking but all it ever results in is fodder in the community for dinner conversation. The story has a faint resemblance to The Great Gatsby, focusing on the lives of the rich and privileged, but doesn’t truly make any kind of statement or develop any noticeable themes aside from evoking the old-fashioned nostalgic feel of Fitzgerald’s work.

I am confused that some reviews about this book are glowing and I am really looking forward to book club to find out why others may have liked it enough to choose it.