Friday, March 9, 2018

Review of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Abacus, 2009 Swedish, 2012 English)

Allan Karlsson never wanted a hundredth birthday party with the mayor and local press, so an hour before the event he climbs out of the window and wanders into town in his slippers. He finds himself at the bus station where he buys a ticket to get on the first bus. While he waits a young man asks him to mind his suitcase while he goes to the toilet. When the bus comes before the man returns, Allan gets on, taking the suitcase with him. And so his adventure starts, having taken fifty million kroner from a criminal gang. It soon involves a couple of murders and an elephant. But Allan is used to escapades and taking things in his stride.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a comic crime caper meets Forrest Gump told through three strands that eventually meet at the denouement. The first strand follows Allan’s escape from an old people’s home on the day of his hundredth birthday and subsequent adventure involving a suitcase of cash, a career thief, a criminal gang, an eternal student turned hot-dog seller, a reclusive woman and her elephant, and a couple of murders. The second tracks the hunt for Allan by a police detective and prosecutor who are hampered by incompetence and vanity, and a criminal boss who has dim-witted accomplices. The third maps out Allan’s life, which has involved a couple of journey’s around the world, meeting several world leaders, several incarcerations, and key contributions to the nuclear age. The concept is a nice one and the story starts out well, with a strong hook and a lightly comic touch. Comic crime capers are usually held together with plot devices, with the humour, pace and larger-than-life characters papering over the unlikely twists and turns. Allan is a wonderful character that rejects politics and religion and has a devil-may-care attitude to life, however, he cannot quite compensate for the creakiness of the plot, especially towards the end, when unlikely and silly occurrences are substituted for the absurd. Moreover, the humour becomes a bit tedious after a while. The result is a tale that starts well, but cannot sustain the feel-good formula to the conclusion.

1 comment:

Lohr McKinstry said...

I saw the movie based on this book and it was excellent. Many subplots removed, but a really entertaining film.