Honey-Bunny has recommended The Hundred-Year Of Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson to me several times, so as a dutiful parent I bumped this story up to the top of my list.
Honey-Bunny’s recommendations have come a long way. The first book (or series) she discovered for herself and insisted I read too were the Harry Potter books. I enjoyed them, but then came Twilight and a few other vampire books… which were not for me. A decade later, though, Honey-Bunny’s suggestions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, A Song of Ice and Fire and The Hundred-Year Of Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared have all been winners.
The story of The Hundred-Year Of Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is funny, clever and surprising, with unusual characters constantly doing unexpected things.
The hundred-year old man is Allan Karlsson, a Swedish man who lives in an old people’s home. As the title suggests, on his one hundredth birthday, Allan climbs out of his window and disappears, on the very first page. I don’t know why I found this event to be so surprising considering the book’s title, but it was.
Allan hadn’t pre-planned his escape, and he didn’t have any particular reason for absconding apart from wanting to avoid a fairly lame birthday party which had been planned for him, but as the story went on, this impromptu behaviour turned out to be entirely in keeping with his character and his life events, which were told alternately with the present story.
After shuffling away from the old people’s home, Allan arrived at the bus station where a young lout asked Allan to look after his suitcase while he used the toilet. (The lout used much coarser terms, as you would expect). Allan then hopped onto the next bus with the lout’s suitcase and travelled as far as his money would take him. He got out at an abandoned train station where he met the next main character in the book, Julius. Allan and Julius quickly bonded over a meal and alcohol, and when the angry owner of the suitcase tracked Allan down at the abandoned train station, they shoved him into a freezer and turned the temperature down.
Unfortunately Allan and Julius were having such a good time (alcohol) that they forgot about the lout in the freezer and when they remembered him in the morning, he had frozen to death. The suitcase turned out to be full of cash, so Allan and Julius took off with the suitcase full of cash, wheeling their victim along with them on a trolley.
The present-day adventure continued in much the same vein, with luck falling Allan’s, Julius’ and their future companion’s way for another 350 pages.
The story is interspersed with Allan’s history, which is equally as fascinating as his present day adventures. In his younger days Allan was an explosives expert, who lived at various times of his life in the United States of America, China, Bali, Russia and quite a few other countries. Allan was on first name terms with a number of American presidents and other world leaders, including Stalin, General Franco, Mao Tse Tung and Kim Il Sung, due to being in the right spot at the right time, over and over again. He told Robert Oppenheimer how to make an atom bomb work when he was unable to find a solution to the problem, and was later responsible for giving the Russians the same information.
Allan crossed the Himalayas on foot, was involved in espionage on both sides of various wars as well as being employed as an explosives expert in both sides of other wars, and spent time in a Russian prison camp in Siberia.
I realise that this all sounds quite ridiculous, but the plot was completely believable when I was reading the story. The story itself is funny and the characters endearing, although they have a terrible habit of accidently killing people who are trying to kill them. All I can say is, the only characters that died deserved their endings, and as Allan himself would have said, these characters would have died anyway, eventually.
Allan goes through life without worrying about things he cannot control, in his own words, “Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be.”
The language is slightly awkward, in a story written in a Scandanavian language then translated into English sort of way. I’m not complaining though, because the style made it obvious that Allan was Swedish, rather than English or American or Australian, like most of the characters in books that I read.
I only have one complaint about the book, which is that the paperback was unwieldy to read on the train. I wish publishers would make paperbacks with a lot of pages bigger, instead of cramming more pages into a smaller book. My fingers ache trying to hold paperbacks with too many pages open.
Anyway, The Hundred-Year Of Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is an enjoyable book with endearing characters. I am a happier person for having read this, and I will go out of my way to find this author’s second book, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden.