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A Review of “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”

Book covers of Jonas Jonasson’s novel.

Jonas Jonasson’s new book, The Girl Who save the Swedish King was released in April 2014. His book, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared was turned into a major motion picture and has become an international success. I thought after all this excitement about Jonasson’s new book and film, it would be nice to return to Jonasson’s first book and look at what makes Allan, the 100-year-old man, so intriguing.

Jonasson’s novel follows the life of centenarian, Allan Karlsson, who one day decides to climb out of the window of his nursing home. He isn’t really looking for adventure, just somewhere that isn’t near nurse Alice. Although, from the moment Allan steps out the window, adventure is all he gets. When Allan steals a suitcase filled with money from a member of the ‘Never Again’ gang, Allan is hunted down by the gang and the police. With a bit of luck and wit Allan, a centenarian, manages to outwit the gang and stay on the run/shuffle. Along the way, Allan makes unlikely friends who form a mismatched group, including the boss of ‘Never Again’. So Allan, Julius, Benny, The Beauty, and Sonya the elephant travel around Sweden trying to escape the clutches of the Swedish police.

Jonasson has a very strong narrative style that is unmistakeably funny, strong, and relaxed. He alternates between current events – Allan and co. hiding from the police and the Never Again gang – and Allan’s younger years. Allan has a devil-may-care attitude and has a motto in life is: ‘Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be.’ This gets him into all sorts of trouble and throughout his life, Allan rubs shoulders with leaders from around the world. He has a terrible dinner with Stalin that ends with him being thrown into a Russian prison for five years; he pretends to attempt an assassination of Churchill in Iran; he has some noodles with Chairman Mao; ruins Kim Jong Il’s ability to trust; crosses the Himalayas; Fights for both sides of the Spanish revolution; squashes someone with an elephant; and finally marries at the age of 101.

Allan’s background and morals are far from pure. I would say they are simple. Allan enjoys nice company, preferably with vodka, and as long as he has enough money for a bit of food and some hard liquor, things are alright. And somehow, despite the fact that Allan helps develop the nuclear bomb, kills gang members (with a bit of help), and accidentally tells the Russians the secret of developing an A-bomb, he is still a loveable feel-good character. It is Allan’s positivity that is so uplifting in this book. He makes you believe that quite anything is possible.

If you haven’t read Jonasson’s book, it’s a must for this summer.

“Allan encouraged the marshal to think positively, but added that it was of course entirely up to the marshal himself. If he really wanted to walk along wearing only his underpants and have negative thoughts about life, then he could do so.” – p252

Will you be reading Jonasson’s novel, which is now a motion picture? As always, share the reading love.