The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
By: Jonas Jonasson
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he’s still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn’t interested (and he’d like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).
It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. Quirky and utterly unique, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has charmed readers across the world.
This book was one of those novels I saw everywhere last summer: in the bookstores, online on book lists & on Twitter, in the subway. The premise sounded pretty quirky so I decided to keep an eye out for it. I recently got it for my Kobo and figured it would make a fun summer read 🙂
This book was not quite what I expected, which was ultimately a pleasant surprise. The narrative is rather quaint and the narrative sparse; there is dialogue when needed, but otherwise a lot of the scenes are all communicated by narrative. It’s also almost fairy tale-ish at times, which adds to the quirkiness of the novel.
The present storyline was pretty zany and amusing at times. It’s hilarious to read how much of a fuss Allan kicked up by disappearing from his nursing home on the day of this 100th birthday, and how his disappearance slowly draws the attention of the media and the police. His adventures away from his nursing home also brings him in contact with a variety of different people–a recluse living in the forest, a hot dog vendour, a divorcee living with a pet elephant (yeah, I don’t even know where to begin with the elephant), criminasl–and how, through a strange luck that Allan seems to possess since childhood, he is able to get out of sticky situations and form a very strange and wonderful fellowship with these people he meets.
The novel also provides flashbacks in between Allan’s present day adventures to show his past, growing up in an ever-changing world. It’s interesting to read how he witnessed a lot of major historical events in the 20th century, meeting famous individuals by random design and with no realisation of how important those people really are or how colossal the events he was partaking in were. It reminded me of Ian Thompson’s The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms (review) in a way but this book is far light-hearted than Thompson’s novel.
Despite of the zaniness and my amusement with the story, it was a bit slow at some parts, especially towards the end and after Allan’s time in the United States and working in New Mexico. It started losing my attention how the Soviets recruited him and such, and I was far more interested in his present day adventures trying to evade the criminals from “Never Again”.
Nonetheless, for the most part I enjoyed reading The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, it was a nice break from some of the heftier novels I’ve been reading as of late. I recommend this title if you’re looking for something light to read for a change 🙂