Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Hundred Year Old Man

I recently finished reading The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It starts in an old peoples home in a small town in Sweden, where the inhabitants of the home are preparing for a party to celebrate Allan Karlsson's hundredth birthday. Allan decides that he never wanted a party anyway, even if the Mayor is attending, and climbs out of the window and runs away. From there on the adventures get more and more surreal and we see more and more colourful characters popping up along the way. 

It was recommended to me by a friend and I have to say I love the title. It is a pretty simple premise: the tale is told in third person and is split between the events that are taking place now and a re-telling of Allan's life story. Since he is 100, he has lived through most of the 20th century so there is a great deal of history that is mentioned (which is fairly accurate, which made me happy!) and considering his character is not concerned at all with politics, he sums up the political situations at various times pretty well. The writing style is simple, clear and unpretentious - maybe deceptively so, in this sense it reminded me a little of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, it has a similar fairy tale quality to the narration. Given that the main character is pretty pragmatic, the humour is wonderfully dry. I really enjoyed some of the more absurd scenes in the book. It wasn't a very laugh out loud book but it did get me chuckling a few times. There are a few good plot twists, there were plenty of surprises, but I think the main thing for me was the construction of the people. Being pretty simply written means that it wasn't full of psychological analysis or extravagant emotion, but the characters were pretty rounded in various ways and they were all surprising in their own way. I'm a sucker for a good character, and I have to say that I really warmed to most of them - you know that feeling where you wish you were on an adventure with them? yep, I was there. Admittedly I'm fairly easy to please, but I really enjoyed the unfolding of the book. I'm sure I'll read it again at some point, I'll have to see what its like on the second read. If you're looking for something charming, heart warming and fairly optimistic (or if you really like blowing things up and drinking vodka) then this is a lovely little book to while away a few hours.

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