The first thing that jumps out at you about this book is the extra-long title. At 58 characters ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson, is the longest title that I have come across. It got me wondering what the longest title ever was. So I turned to my old friend Google. However the outcome wasn’t entirely clear. There were some indications that it could be a whopping 4805 characters and others saying it was as many as 5820 characters for a badly edited book about Daniel Radcliff. Needless to say, and for reasons of pure untweetability, I will forgo reviewing that particular book.
For those of you who haven’t guessed, this week’s book is about a hundred year old man who climbs out of a window and disappears. (I know, my skills of perception are unparralleled.) This particular centenarian is called Allan Karlsson and our story begins by him escaping from the retirement home that he lives in, where the rest of the gathered chumps are about to celebrate his hundredth birthday, or so they think. Allan has no intention of hanging around for another day in that dreary place and makes his escape even while the mayor and local press are arriving for his party. Then follows a man hunt involving the police, some gangsters and the press. Every scenario that unfolds is more unlikely than the last and yet the chase keeps going.
Whilst we don’t meet Allan till he is one hundred, the story oscillates between the scrapes he now gets into and his colourful past. Allan’s life has been jam packed with adventure. The irony of the book was that whilst Allan himself was as apolitical as a goldfish, his lifeline took us on a political romp through history. Allan met national leaders the way you or I meet acquaintances. In passing, nonchalantly and without the slightest sense of awe.
Allan had a laissez-faire approach to life which I sincerely wish I could emulate. No matter how grave the situation he just thought “Oh well there’s nothing to be gained by worrying about it. What will be will be.” Not that he ever needed to worry. His luck was so remarkable that he always managed to work his way out of a difficult situation in the end. More than once had he been in the jaws of death to find himself delivered by luck or his own keen wits. This repeated good luck lasted him a hundred years.
The Hundred Year Old man who blah, blah… is at its heart a comedy. By this I don’t mean daft chuckle-brothers-esque to me, to you, type of slap stick. But a more subtle, almost Shakespearean sense of comedy. Nothing is too morose. No-one is too desolate though some of the situations are pretty dire. There are of course bad things that happen. It couldn’t be possible to live for a hundred years (particularly with a life as varied as Allan’s) and not have anything bad happen, but if anyone can deal with bad stuff it is Allan.
This is fiction at its best. Fantastical, fun and with a sense of being on a roaring rollercoaster where you wonder whether every abrupt turn is going to send you crashing. It never does of course. You’re picked up again and thrust in a new direction and you hold on for dear life, marvelling at the force making this happen. Never, ever wanting it to end.
But end it did of course as all good things do. Mind you that’s not so bad because it means I get to move on to something that has been on my TBR (to be read) list for a ridiculously long time. Next Monday’s review will be on ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by a little known author called J.K. Rowling. In the words of Tinie Tempah please do go ahead and tell J.K I’m still rolling… Till next Monday anyway!