The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared Reveiw
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Title- The Hundred Year Old Man Who climbed out the Window and Disappeared
Author- Jonas Jonasson
Publisher- Herperus Press
Date of this Publication- 2012
Genre- Scandinavian comedy fiction
My Rating- 2/5 stars
The Hundred Year Old Man Who climbed out the Window and Disappeared is the first and only novel by Jonas Jonasson. It tells the odyssey –like tale of 100 year old Swede Allan Karlsson who on his 100th birthday decides to climb out the window and disappear. Allan encounters the Never Again crime gang when he decides to steal a case full of cash from a gang member and hops aboard a bus that takes him into rural Sweden. Whilst being chased by police chief Aronsson, Inspector Ranelid and the Never Again gang Allan encounters characters such as Julius Jonsson, Benny- a failed hotdog stand proprietor, The Beauty - stay at home mum to Buster the Alsatian and Sonya the elephant. Together the group quickly become friends and journey throughout rural Sweden evading capture from the law and dispatching each member of the Never Again gang in a Zweig-like, over-the-top and surreal manner.
The long flowing sentences and short snappy phrases often repeated for added comedic value offer a high tone of surreal, feel good humour. Allan is also a go-getter; from the moment he climbs out the window and disappears this is the one action against the notion of conforming to the idea of stagnating in the Old People’s Home. Instead, he rebels and promptly decides he’d like one last adventure in life. He is a no nonsense go-getter whose soul philosophy in life is ‘Life’s too short to worry and whatever will be will be.’ Allan winds through present day Sweden and many periods in his life brim with historical figures such as Stalin, Truman, General Mao and General Franco. All who show an interest in Allan over the course of his life for his unique knowledge of chemistry and bomb making.
This was where it all went downhill for me. Never have I been so relieved to be done with this book. The juxtaposition of Allan’s former life going from country to country being influenced and influencing many of histories characters all while claiming to have no interest in politics did not work for me. Each trip back to Allan’s former life felt somewhat tiresome and as if next to nothing had been accomplished. Plot points should have tied in with the main plot that is Allan’s present life but did not. The large segments devoted to Allan’s past throughout history could have worked had they been shorter and possibly less frequent flashback segments all reflecting something Allan faces in the present day. They did not. For someone who claims to have little or no interest in politics the majority of these past chapters (and the book for that matter) centre on various communist and revolutionary uprisings and many, many political figures throughout. Allan, through his knowledge of chemistry and bombs interacts with each of them. I could identify with none of this and often found, myself skipping and skimming through these chapters simply to reach the much better plot of Allan avoiding the law whilst on the run. This was a major problem for me throughout.
Another disappointing factor for me was the climax. Despite how amusing and charming it was it could have been written in a far more dramatic way in which Allan is allowed to apply his huge knowledge of chemistry and bomb making to save the day, but no, instead the plot seemed to want to focus on the largely unrelated, inferior flashbacks to Allan’s past. Without these it would have been a shorter and far more enjoyable and genuinely funny book.
Unfortunately a good portion of the book deals with Allan’s past in an unrelated, un-engaging manner but what portions remain of Allan’s present, lawless getaway across Sweden with a band of misfits and an elephant were largely enjoyable. They story also deals with themes of conforming and contrasting against the norm, rebelling and self liberation. Allan Karlsson is not an unlikeable character and the antics he and his friends get up to are peppered with genuinely funny or heart-warming moments throughout, but sadly a large remainder of the plot tends towards flat and unlikable. The overall book is a disappointing waste of good characters, comedy and action but did not appeal to me.