Recently, I read both A Man Called Ove and The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared. They’re both by Swedish authors, which is a fun coincidence, because I didn’t set out to read 100 y.o.m – it was a book club pick.
Having read them nearly back to back, I noticed that there was a similar feel to both books. I don’t know if that is because of the content of the books, or reflects the culture of Sweden. Perhaps a little of both. I did a quick google search, and I don’t know that I’ve read any other books by Swedish authors – not recently, at any rate.
Both books tell the story of their older male main character, sharing both their current predicaments and weaving in their history through the chapters. I like this way of storytelling when it’s done well – and it is in both novels – because it gives valuable insight into the character without having to go from a purely chronological viewpoint. That, I think, would slow down the story considerably. Bouncing back and forth keeps the pace punchy, and leaves you wanting to know what happens next in both threads.
Ove tells a story that is more plausible. It’s serious and heartwarming, with moments of lightheartedness. 100 Year Old Man is a much more exaggerated tale. It doesn’t pretend to be realistic, and overall, feels something like a modern day myth. Both are really enjoyable reads, and worth your time.
I find that I slightly preferred Ove, however. It feels a little bit more tightly written. There are times where 100 Year Old Man wanders a bit too much from the main character for my liking. Every once in a while, the book would wander into the viewpoint of someone so random that it felt like too much of a stretch. I knew we wouldn’t be back in this character’s head, and the exposition wasn’t crucial. It could be amusing, but it slowed down the pacing just enough that I really didn’t care about it. But, these moments were few and far enough apart that the book was still fun.
So if you’re looking for something to read this summer and you haven’t read these books before, give them a shot. For me, at least, they were a fun departure from my normal choices.