Review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Posted 11 July, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

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 heโ€™s still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isnโ€™t interested (and heโ€™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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Rating: ★★★½☆

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6 Responses to “Review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”

    • Aww, thank you! Hope you’ll get into it this time around ๐Ÿ™‚ Reflecting on your comment a bit, I guess I can see how the story style might not be for everyone?

  1. I’ve seen this book around a lot but haven’t managed to read it myself yet, so I enjoyed reading your thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s unfortunate it seemed to drop off a bit toward the end, it’s so frustrating when books do that. It does sound like a bit of fun though!

    • It’s amazing how, a year later, I still see it on the online bestsellers list and see people in the subway reading it…But yeah, it’s pretty crazy where Allan ends up, lol ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I finally got this one out of the library earlier this year but I read about 50 pages before deciding it wasn’t for me. It also wasn’t what I was expecting – a bit too over the top for what I usually like to read. I wasn’t in the mood to appreciate the humour. But, maybe I will give it another shot in the future, when I’m in a more ‘zany’ mood ๐Ÿ˜›

    • I totally understand; your comment and someone else’s above had me realise that this book certainly isn’t for everyone. I think you definitely have to be in a particular mood to read the insanity, lol xD

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