I first came across today’s particular book, The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, when I was in Manchester airport about to board a plane back in June. Already equipped with my Kindle, I really didn’t need to take any more books on holiday with me. But I had time to kill and it was – well, me. This book was in the charts at WH Smith and part of a buy one, get one half price deal. As I spotted John Grisham’s Sycamore Row glowing with an angelic aura on the top shelf, (review on this book to come shortly) it occurred to me that it would be silly not to take advantage of the deal…
So, The Hundred-Year-Old Man climbed out of the window and onto a plane to Tenerife with me.
From the moment I started this book, I just couldn’t (and wouldn’t) put it down. Luckily I had two full weeks of lying around in the sun, and so at all times between eating, washing, sleeping, and sightseeing, I was glued to this book. It’s definitely not your typical chick-lit beach read, but that didn’t matter. I went on holiday to have fun, and that’s definitely what I had whilst reading the book. It was an absolute joy from beginning to end.
As suggested in the title, the book revolves around 100-year-old Allan Karlsson, who is about to celebrate his 100th birthday with a party at the resident home in which he lives. Or so his guests think. Minutes before the party is due to begin, and with the press and a large party of people waiting for him, he decides to take his chances elsewhere and leaves through the window. From this point on begins a new adventure for the centenarian, as he encounters a number of colourful and eccentric characters in increasingly amusing situations.
Running alongside this narrative is a parallel storyline which takes the reader through Allan’s life from birth right up until moment at which the novel begins. It follows the protagonist as he stumbles through life, Forrest Gump-style, unwittingly becoming a key element in some of the most significant events of the twentieth century.
Allan Karlsson is instantly loveable from the first moment. His flippant and matter-of-fact outlook on the world surprises you from the beginning; his almost carefree attitude to danger and death takes the sting from any serious event that would normally threaten a book’s light-heartedness. He is a politically neutral soul who only wishes to mind his own business and yet somehow manages to involve himself with a number of the world’s most famous and infamous political figures – Churchill, Truman, Stalin and Mao to name a few. His goal in life is to remain suitably entertained with a constant supply of vodka, and he has no personal bias against anything or anyone. He is easy to please, intelligent in an uncomplicated way, and, also much like Forrest Gump, seems to be incredibly adept at many things he puts his mind to.
Along the way, as he moves continuously from one country to another, Allan shares his adventures with a brilliantly entertaining cast of people, including the owner of a hot dog stand who is a nearly-qualified expert at almost everything, a gang of witless drug dealers, a thief and conman, Albert Einstein’s dimwit brother and a rather demanding and spoiled elephant. Each character seems as flawed and corrupt as Allan himself, and yet the reader cannot help but fall in love with each weird and insane individual as the story progresses.
The narrative is laced throughout with a hilarious yet forgiveable absurdity. In any other novel, by any other writer, I might have found Karlsson’s life experiences way too far-fetched to be believable or enjoyable. However, Jonas Jonasson manages to pull the novel back from the sucking black hole of meaningless slapstick comedy and presents a brilliant comic twist on political commentary – with none of the usual heaviness.
The reader, however, needs to approach this novel remembering that it is a pure work of fiction. I have read some reviews that criticise the book for political reasons, which feels redundant to me. The reader just needs to do what I did, and read the Hundred-Year-Old-Man with a completely open mind without intention of taking it too seriously. Jonasson’s intention is to entertain, and he succeeds.
Since finishing this book, I have recommended it to so many of my friends and family, many of whom have relatively different tastes and yet all of whom I know would love it. The novel was published in 2012 by Hesperus Press and was made into a major motion film this year, which I am hoping to see soon. In the meantime, I highly recommend this book to all of my readers, too. A fantastically enjoyable read and a refreshing change from the norm!
“Revenge is like politics, one thing always leads to another until bad has become worse, and worse has become worst.”
― Jonas Jonasson, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
What did you think of the book? Do you agree or disagree with my review? I am always on the lookout for a debate, a chat, and a read! Leave your comments below and I will answer!
You can buy the book directly from the publisher, Hesperus Press, here at www.hesperuspress.com