The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Rating: 3 out of 5
It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages.
I picked this book up as it was picked in our book club. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect when I started reading it.
The story follows Allan, who on his 100th birthday decides he has had enough of the residential home he has been living in so he climbs out of the window and slowly shuffles to the bus station. There, a criminal asks him to keep an eye on his large suitcase whilst he uses the facilities. Allan, however, decides that he will take the suitcase with him when he boards the bus. This is the beginning of an escape across the country and a police search for him. Whilst all this is going on, we are taken back in time to learn about Allan and the eventful life he has led. He grew up in Sweden but has seen a lot of the world, and mostly by accident. He has been involved in making atom bombs and walked across the Himalayas, plus encountered many political figures in his life.
At the start of this book I was gripped. I was fascinated by this old man and why he was escaping from the home he lived in. He was an interesting character – quite quirky and different. I think what surprised me was that he did seem to have all his wits about him, which I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed from the fact he decides to escape through a window. I did find the early recounting of his life interesting too. At the beginning it was exciting learning about all the places he ended up – always by accident – and the political figures he met. I did find the book fairly funny too, but eventually the book got very same-y. Everything seemed to be repeating itself and the book became quite predictable. The political figures changed but the storylines and encounters remained the same. Even the current day events became a touch boring. I felt the book was a little too long and some of the adventures could have been cut out.
There isn’t a standout, favourite character for me. To begin with I liked Allan, but on reflection all I can remember about him is that he liked vodka and didn’t like politics. I don’t remember much about the other characters to be honest.
At the book club I go to we rate everything out of 10 and the overall score this book earned was 7.3. The general feedback was: it was funny with a good pace and a good ending. A friend of mine has also recently read the book. His thoughts are here.
Overall, I would rate this book 3 out of 5. It started with great potential. It was interesting and funny but I felt it went on too long and become predictable, with very similar stories all the way through it.