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

The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and DisappearedThe Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson, (Hesperus Press, 2012).

Allan Karlsson is one hundred years old. Today. And the old folks home he detests is throwing him a party in order to parade him out to the press. So Allan does what any centenarian in full control of his faculties would do. He climbs out of the window and embarks on one last adventure.

The events that unfold are a remarkable series of coincidences, mishaps and chance meetings involving murder, a suitcase full of 50 millions kroner and an elephant named Sonja. The main story is interspersed by chapters from Allan’s 100-years  which are just as fantastical and explain why he doesn’t seem to be too concerned about being on the run from the police at his advanced age. It turns out that the fiercely apolitical Karlsson managed to directly influence world events, made friends with leaders including Truman, Stalin and Mao, crossed the Himalayas, spent 20 years in a Russian prison camp and blew up an entire town. And all in the perfectly innocence search for a drop of vodka.

Of course, the titular 100-year old man make the story. His life story is absurd yes, but enthralling. The more you read, the more you can actually imagine that a lot of major events in history could be down to a misunderstanding, a fleeting encounter, a wrong turn of phrase (conspiracy theory alert!). Allan is an inherently trustworthy character, even when he is plotting how to talk his way out of whatever predicament he has found himself in. Even when you know he is lying. He causes political chaos, but since he is non-political himself you don’t lay the blame at his feet. It’s this contrast which is the fascinating core of the book.

I found this to be an engaging, humourous read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone. It’s a great book for the summer. Read it to find out what really happened with the Manhattan Project!


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