Review: The Hundred Year Old Man…

Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

Click for the Amazon link!

When I first started this blog I fully intended to talk about what I was reading, but then I started my dissertation and stopped reading anything that wasn’t circus-related, and so that idea went out of the window. Now that last term is only a distant memory, and the sun has finally come out, I’ve had plenty of time to read whatever I want and I have to say I have been loving it!

I’ve had this little gem by Jonas Jonasson on my Kindle for a while now, but I’d been putting off reading it on the grounds that 100 year old men are usually not my kind of protagonist. However, faced with a long train journey and the need to pack light, I had to abandon my other read-in-progress (Capital, by John Lanchester, an absolute brick of a paperback) and eventually gave in to Jonasson.

I had heard only good things about this book, and as it turns out, that is for good reason. I loved it! It’s a light, funny read with an eccentric array of characters that includes a criminal mastermind, an elephant, and almost every major world leader of the 20th century, all tied together by the 100 year old protagonist, Allan. It’s ridiculous to say the least, with two stories essentially running alongside each other: one, the tale of Allan’s escape from his old people’s home and the unbelievable mischief he gets up to along the way, and two, a blunt account of Allan’s quite remarkable life so far. It reads sort of like a Swedish, more intelligent Forrest Gump – it’s very whimsical and surreal, but there is a sense of tongue-in-cheek wryness and dry humour about the whole thing that I really enjoyed.

On a slightly deeper level, I think Jonasson also has a lot to say about politics, corruption and global affairs. It’s subtly done and stays light hearted, but protagonist Allan definitely presents a whole new way of looking at the world that highlights a lot of vital issues relating to current affairs, international relations and so on. I won’t get too English-student, but it’s an interesting way of looking at the novel and I think that’s definitely what lends it its literary merit, as such. Either way, Allan’s “que sera sera” attitude is inspiring if nothing else. I think everyone needs a bit of Allan in them!

As I said, on paper The Hundred Year Old Man… isย exactly the kind of thing I’m not into, i.e ageing explosive experts and criminal wild goose chases. In practice, however, it’s a perfect feelgood summer read if you’re looking for something that’s a step up from your average trashy chick lit / awful self published romance but not looking to tax your poor over-stressed mind. Plus, if you’ve got any knowledge of recent history and 20th century world events, it’s a nice little ego boost – a classic case of buttering up the reader’s ego by appealing to your GCSE history knowledge. It’s a winner all round, and as this is only Jonas Jonasson’s first novel, I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for him in the future!

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