Title: The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.
Author: Jonas Jonasson (translated by Rod Bradbury).
Genre: Crime Comedy Fiction.
Publisher: Hesperus Books.
Publication date: 12th July 2012.
Paperback: 400 pages.
Stand alone or Series: Stands Alone.
Why did I choose to read this book?: How could you not read something with such an amazing title – plus the author described it as ‘an intelligent, very stupid book‘.
Where to read?: Although I didn’t, this would be a perfect travel companion when Interrailing around Europe.
Refreshments: Crisps and bottles of Corona.
This novel centres on the life of centenarian Allan Karlsson who we first meet sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, waiting for the birthday party he doesn’t want. Everyone will be there, including the Mayor of the town, Allan however, has other plans and decides to escape out his window through the garden to begin his final adventure
And so we follow him on his madcap and unbelievable journey involving organised crime, accidental murders, a suitcase full of cash, incompetent police, all conducted in his slippers. While his exploits unfold we are treated to snippets of Allan’s extremely colourful life. In between chapters, we learn he has met some of the greatest political figures and played a key role in world-changing events of the 20th Century.
Allan is an epic character, likened by some to Forest Gump. He shares all the character traits of any stereotypical old man. He doesn’t want to be told what he can and can’t do, to the extent that he hides alcohol in his room, even though it’s banned. He is also the most unassuming individual who doesn’t seek excitement but finds himself in the most unlikely situations and takes them all in his stride. He provides one of the best and most likable protagonists, helped along the way by his band of misfits, comprising: a thief, a hot dog vendor, a feisty red-head and an ex-circus entertaining elephant, to provide legitimate laugh out loud moments along the way.
Due to the twists and turns of Allan’s adventures both in the past and present you feel that you’re reading a diary of someone’s world travels. In one moment you’re discovering the countryside of Sweden to instantly find yourself upturned and dumped into the Middle East with a short stopover in Spain. It’s a whirlwind, but Jonasson writes so skilfully that you never feel lost and confused, like you can in other similar fiction.
My history cravings were also satisfied whilst reading this book. Being a centenarian, the intermingled chapters of his earlier life also act as a social and historical commentary on what happened in the world during the 20th century. We follow Allan as he fights in the Spanish Civil War, on both sides, makes friends with General Franco. We learn Allan that is gifted in explosives (blowing up his house being the reason he’s in the residential home in the first place!) and helped design the A-Bomb whilst drinking Vodka with Truman. So as well as an outlandish story it does to a small extent teach you a bit of history too!
All in all this was a most enjoyable read that made me want to quit my job, pack a rucksack and jump on the first plane or train that came along. It’s both inspirational in the way it makes you realize that opportunities aren’t going to come knocking on your door but also that things happen for a reason. I don’t read self-help books but I think this would make a good addition to those bookshelves!
NOTE: This review does not do the book justice largely because if I said too much it would ruin it for you!
Rating: 9 out of 10 – film adaptation coming soon!