Monday, 12 August 2013

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Following last month's review of Gone Girl, I decided I really ought to tackle more of the "everyone's read it" books lurking on my Kindle. So, after a few months on the to do list, it was time to delve into the Hundred-Year-Old Man.

This was my first foray into the world of Swedish literature and my, what a strange tale! The basic plot is the adventures of the elderly Allan Karlsson who escapes his old people's home on the day of his hundredth birthday and embarks on a series of accidental adventures involving, among many other things, vast sums of money, gangsters, a rogue elephant and a bumbling investigator and prosecutor. Interwoven with this is the story of Allan's (again accidental) adventures through 20th century history.

I really enjoyed the simple narrative and felt it gave a distinct whimsy to proceedings. It's a unique combination of many different styles and genres; it's what Forrest Gump would have been if following a mild mannered, quick witted Swede around pivotal moments of European and world history. In parts too it reminded me of Inspector Clouseau and Fawlty as you can tell, a novel that is tricky to define!

It did take me a little time to get used to the style but I do think it's well worth persevering with. I would describe the pace as easy going but if you're looking for thrills and spills it probably isn't for you. This is very much due to the nature of the main character; Allan is calm and unflappable, even in the face of great danger. As a result, everything is dealt with in a rather understated way. For me, this was a large part of its charm. If only I had Allan's cool reserve under pressure - who knows what global events I could have stumbled upon and inadvertently influenced, all while drinking vodkas with world leaders?

It is a great bit of escapism and does require the suspension of disbelief; this, combined with a good understanding of 20th century history, made this a book that amused and entertained throughout my commute. Definitely one to try on the journey to work if you're looking for something a little different.

(Available from Amazon in ebook, hardback, paperback and audio)