Book Review: The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson, Rod Bradbury (Translator)

Publication date: July 12th 2012
Publisher: Hesperus Press
Pages: 396


It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages.

Source: Goodreads


I had high hopes for “The Hundred Year-Old Man..” having read a good number of books by Swedish authors in recent years and I knew that this one was a best seller. With an attractive cover and an intriguing name, who wouldn’t pick this one up?

I read the first few pages with a smile on my face –  this story of an old man running away to avoid his 100th birthday party started well with a comedic tone. Allan Karlsson escapes the Old People’s Home and finds his way to the bus station where he promptly steals the suitcase of a leather clad gang member while he’s in the bathroom. It’s a great set up and felt as though it was heading in the right direction, however its 400ish pages quickly became tedious, repetitive and at times insane.

I just couldn’t get into this story, couldn’t connect to the characters and didn’t have much of an interest into Allan’s impressive background. About half way through I began to skip the huge chapters set in his past as I was more interested in the current storyline than the ridiculous history of the leading man. I mean, how is it possible that someone has met and had adventures with almost every political leader of his time?!

“‘I’ll order the food, so you can choose the drinks,’ said Harry Truman jovially and handed the wine list to Allan.”

Unrealistic and farcical in a way that just made me roll my eyes, this book was far too out there and the writing style just didn’t match what it was trying to achieve. Perhaps something has been lost in the translation into English, but the absurdly implausible details dragged on and on in a monotonous tone. The writing never allowed for the imagination to take over and I never had a clear picture of what was happening in my mind.

Oh and for some bizarre reason, they have a pet elephant..

Overall rating: I definitely didn’t hate this book. I did like the overall plot but it’s length, eccentricity and repetition just didn’t make for a completely enjoyable read and I’m giving Jonas Jonasson‘s “The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared” a poor 2 stars. Perhaps I’ll give the film a try!

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