The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson – Book Review

Now into my second summer book, unfortunately the last before I hit the University reading lists again, this was recommended by my girlfriend who sped through this novel whilst on holiday. From hearing bits and bobs of the plot, I was fairly intrigued. A deceptively simple title heralds the start of a surprisingly turbulent adventure for well-traveled centenarian, Allan Karlsson. The novel begins as the title suggests, Allan, who wants to avoid his 100th birthday party at all costs, has opened up his ground floor window and disappears.

One would instantly worry that a 100 year-old is able to wander out into the world, but Allan is not your average elderly gentleman. With a 100 years under his belt, Allan is an experienced traveler as Jonasson documents his adventure across the globe which began all the way back at the start of the twentieth century. Allan skips over some of the largest events in his lifetime meeting some of the most renowned faces in modern history. Jonasson effortlessly crafts famous figures into his writing, and they interact with our protagonist in the most comical and odd fashions. I mean, how many protagonists have attempted to drink President Truman under the table? The historical context employed throughout the narrative almost pushes us in the direction of a spy novel, as Allan completes gaps in our history as he is commonly involved in undercover missions and espionage. Admittedly I am not the highest informed of historians, but with help from various search engines I was delighted to find truth and links to recent history that I never would have contemplated before reading. We see authors consistently being praised for creations of new world in which characters can interact, but Jonasson has proven just as much skill in placing Allan into our own historical background. Top marks for all the historical research and hours put into this wonderful piece.

However, we cannot forget Allan’s present day adventure as he gets further away from his dreaded birthday party. The centenarian manages to get caught up in all manner of predicaments along with a whole bunch of new companions and accomplices (including an elephant?!). Allan does well in getting around for his age and getting on the wrong side of  a notorious gang probably isn’t the best way to go, but he takes it in his stride (or slow shuffle, I should say). The delivery is both witty and clever and we instantly warm to Allan despite his antics and mishaps. This narrative smoothly intertwines with his past and both bubble along nicely, with small links unfolding as we progress. Jonasson’s writing style and pace goes perfectly with the quirky plot and characters. The Swedish setting gave me a nostalgic feeling of reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, as the styles seem both similiar and refreshing.

As a simple read for pleasure I see no means of improvement into Jonasson’s novel. Of course, Allan’s globetrotting antics may seem far fetched, but that really didn’t matter to me, it just added to the quirky feeling that remained consistent throughout. I would wholly recommend this book and I’m glad that it secured a space in my summer reading list.

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