Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

I imagine like most people, I was first drawn to this book due to the unusual but brilliant title. It just immediately sounds like a fun and interesting book. And thank god it was - to be honest, after a while the endless depressing books that are available now-a-days become ridiculously tiresome, so it was nice to read something cheerful for a change. Although that's not to say that this book is without its action - there are a few murders along the way, but they're handled with in such a way that makes the book light and fun. 
The basic premise of this book is of 100-year-old swede Allan Karlsson who one day, minutes before his 100th birthday party, decides that his life without vodka in an old people's home is not worth staying for, and so he climbs out of the window and, well, he disappears. He then goes on to steal a suit case which leads to his being hunted down by an infamous criminal gang and the police. Every other chapter goes back in time to chart Allan's incredible life, in which he mixed closely with President Harry Truman, Stalin and Churchill to name a few, as well as being a key figure in some of the most momentous events of the 20th Century.
A great thing about this book is that the protagonist Allan Karlsson is so relatable, although perhaps not to my own generation, but there are elements of Allan in anybody over the age of, say, 75. Personally, I found the book funnier because I could see so much of my grandpa in the main character. The author Jonas Jonasson just presents his protagonist in such a likable, if at times unrealistic, light. 
However, a problem I did have was this book was that it was a bit repetitive in places as Allan just kept on meeting world leaders over and over again, and the situation always resulted in the same thing. So, yes it did get a little boring in places. And, to tell the truth, I couldn't wait until it finished because I wanted to get on and read other books. So perhaps, as some other readers have suggested, the One Hundred-Year-Old man is just that little bit too long and lacking in ideas; although the overall idea is very original and, personally, I've never read anything like it before, perhaps the only new idea is the main plot as all the sub-plots are repeated a little too often. 
This book is basically 'Forrest Gump' fast-forwarded a few decades and with more emphasis on global events. There's also the fact that the plot is constantly switching between the past and the present which has the potential to make the reader feel a little uneasy but Jonasson handles this well and so the plot flows as naturally as is possible. Although I would say that both the past and present elements of the story are written so well that, when it was again time to switch between the two, I was a little disappointed and annoyed about the diversion until I got a few pages into the new chapter. 
I think what made the book for me, though, was the fantastic ending; it completely brings you back down to earth again after the slightly strange story, but not in a bad way. The ending is happy and I think the quotation printed at the beginning sums up the whole book pretty well: "Things are what they are, and what ever will be will be". This is really such a cheerful book and  it's definitely worth a read just for that; I think Jonasson was trying to leave the reader with the thought that, when the next opportunity comes, we too should try climbing out of the window to see where it takes us. And in this, Jonasson succeeded. 7/10.

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