When I think about bildunsgromans as a genre, I imagine the likes of Jane Eyre or The Catcher in the Rye, a story progressing from childhood to adulthood. But here I think we have something a bit different and yet all too similar. Ove is a man who has lost everything with the loss of his wife, and now his worldview doesn't quite fit the world he lives in. He needs to grow up, but doesn't know how. All he knows is that the choices he wants to keep making aren't the ones Sonja would necessarily be proud of, so he reminds himself of what she would have encouraged him to do. In this way, Sandra's spirit allows Ove to adjust to the world he lives in. Finally, what would a person be without the people around them? Utterly isolated since Sonja's death, Ove has people seemingly thrust upon him. At first this seems hateful, but as we witness them putting off his suicide attempts in heartbreaking fashion, we begin to realise that perhaps they are exactly what he needs.
All Ove wants is to die in peace. He's reached a time in his life where he's alone, and no longer happy. Plus, he'll either be reunited with his late wife Sonja, or be spared from the pain of living every day without her. Very set in his ways is an under-exaggeration of Ove's character, and when his neighbours begin to break the strict rules he's set up in their estate. When they realise that he's a lot more than an angry old man, they begin to call on him more and more frequently for advice and help regarding practical issues.
With the current day interspersed with memories of his and Sonja's past, we begin to learn why this man is the grumpy old bastard that he appears, and fall in love with him just as Parvaneh and the rest of his community do. The real question is: can they save Ove from himself, just as he saves them from making mistakes?
Have you read it?