Monday, November 5, 2012

[Review] The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 26/09/2012
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 400
Source: For review

Violence Sexual ContentProfanity

My Rating:

My thoughts

I was initially drawn to this book because of the interesting title. I mean, how badass does it sound? There may not be wizards, dragons, vampires or any noticable magic in The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (for convenience I will call 100YOM for the entirety of this review) BUT this book is so quirky and fun and so completely compelling that it's hard not to read on well into the night.

This thrilling ride of a book starts in a nursing home, when the newly-turned centenarian Allan Karlsson decides he would rather be anywhere but there for his birthday. So he climbs out the window (thus the title). In his brown jacket, brown trousers and brown slippers he shuffles toward the local bus station. There, he encounters a young man wearing a jean jacket with the words Never Again on the back, who asks him to mind his suitcase while he goes to the restroom. Allan, having an inclination toward impulsiveness, decides to take the suitcase along with him when the bus arrives, not realising that the suitcase is full of money—50 million crowns*, to be exact. And thus begins a wild adventure and it all starts and ends with the 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.

I really loved this book, if you couldn’t already tell by the rating I’ve given it. As someone who does not read too much adult fiction, I found it incredibly easy to get through this one. I think it’s due to a combination of the absurd nature of the book, the endearing characters—especially Allan—and the unique writing style (which is a translation, no less!). At 400 pages, this book packs in a lot. I remember feeling really sad about reaching the end, because that meant saying see you later to all the characters, and I was just not ready to leave it all.

Allan Karlsson is the HEART of this book. Without him and his history, his unfaltering optimism and dark humour and his determination to NOT be at his birthday party (or die at the nursing home), this book would not be. Allan has had such an interesting life and time and time again he’s escaped death where his comrades hadn’t (I love the attitude he assumes regarding that matter). He makes friends, and while they’re all great, it is Allan who I will never forget, ever.

I’ve mentioned the unique writing style, and when I mean that I really do mean unique. It’s written in third-person past tense, but there’s just something really simple about the way the sentences are constructed that add to the whole vibe of the story. Although this is a translation, it didn’t feel clunky or awkward, so kudos to the translator. I’ve heard that the humour has been done pretty well.

100YOM is just an unbelievable book all around. It is insane, but that’s the point of it. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I had the time to pick the book up and read another chapter or two. Reading this was just such a treat! Jonasson has imagined an amazing cast of characters in an overreaching story—after you’ve read this book, you’ll never forget it.
* Exchange rate is 1:0.04 (CZK:AUD), so we’re looking at almost $2,500,000 in that suitcase.

PS. I didn't even mention the political elements in this book! Let me just tell you that it's a doozy. If it weren't for all that, and the historical elements, I would have raced through this book!


First lines:
"You might think he could have made up his mind earlier, and been man enough to inform his surroundings of his decision. But Allan Karlsson had never been given to pondering things too long.
     So the idea had barely taken hold in the old man's head before he opened the window of his room on the ground floor of the Old Folks' Home in the town of Malmk
รถping, and stepped out--into the flower bed."


Damn it! thought the Boss. When this mess was over, he would burn all the jackets. But where the hell was Caracas? Their planned departure was now!
     Caracas turned up eight minutes later and explained the delay by the fact that he had been at the 7-Eleven and bought a watermelon.
     --Thirst quenching and tasty, Caracas explained.
     --Thirst quenching and tasty? Half the organization has disappeared together with fifty million crowns, and you go off to buy fruit?
     --Not fruit, a vegetable, said Caracas. In the same family as cucumbers, in fact.
     That did it for the Boss, who picked up the watermelon and split it open on Caracas's head. Upon which Caracas started to cry and said that he didn't want to be in the club anymore.
(p. 142)

Allan admitted that the difference between madness and genius was subtle, and that he couldn't tell with certainty say which it was in this case, but that he had his suspicions.
(pp. 158)

     --The chances that we won't survive can't be more than microscopic, said Herbert.
     --You're probably right about that, said Allan.
     --I'm in! said Herbert.
(pp. 237)


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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.
(and it's about time!)

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