So anyone who’s spoken to me recently on the subject of books will have heard about The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. For anyone who hasn’t… you’re about to. In summary, I adore this book. It’s funny, clever and completely random – what’s not to love?
The book’s central character, Allan Karlsson, finds himself on his 100th birthday in an old people’s home in his native Sweden, awaiting a birthday party that he doesn’t want to go to. So he climbs out the window and goes on an adventure, pursued by police, press and various unsavoury characters. Along the way he makes some new friends and together they… well, I won’t ruin it for you. The brilliant thing about the book is how you literally never know what’s going to happen next – and soon realise that anything can and probably will.
Interspersed throughout the present day story are episodes from Allan’s extraordinary life. In a twist reminiscent of Forrest Gump, he finds himself present (and instrumental) at some of the most important historical events of the 20th century. So not only is the novel a gripping and hugely enjoyable read, it also provides an idiot’s guide to the history and politics of the last 100 years. I certainly learnt a few things I didn’t know before.
I found it very hard not to smile every time I returned to the book, and having read it on the Kindle didn’t realise that it’s actually quite long, because I flew through it in a couple of days. It’s impossible not to fall for Allan – having learnt early in life that what will be will be, he’s fabulously unflappable in the face of all sorts of dangers, and can cope with anything as long as there’s vodka. Add to that a healthy dose of absurdly good luck and you’ve got the recipe for an incredible story.
Most importantly, Allan’s tale brings home an important message – in the words of the author, Jonas Jonasson:
“I think a lot of people really should consider the possibility of climbing out of their window. My perspective is that we live only once … I think that if you’ve once asked yourself: ‘Should I…’ then the answer should be: ‘Yes!’ Otherwise, how would you ever get to know that you shouldn’t?”
(Quote taken from ‘Interview with the Author’ at the end of the book.)