140 of 148 people found the following review helpful
Allan is a hundred years old today, but he doesn't want to stay around for his party in the home in which he is resident, so he climbs out of the window and escapes.
This is the start of Allan's journey (into perhaps a fourth age?), and he becomes involved with a variety of characters - some criminal, and some merely suspect - and is also involved in a several deaths along the way. All Allan really wants is somewhere to live, a bit of company and a plentiful supply of vodka, but he get a great deal more than he has bargained for as his adventures begin. The present-day narrative is interspersed with Allan's back story from his youth until the present, and he has led a very eventful life. His expertise in the field of explosives has led him round the world (sometimes accidentally), and he has come into contact with, among others, President Truman, Mao Tse Tung, and Stalin; all, again, accidentally. He has a charming, almost innocent approach to life, and is a most endearing character. While he has no interest whatsoever in politics, he somehow can't avoid becoming involved, and changes sides as fate dictates, with scant regard to his own safety.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable romp of a novel. What is particularly satisfying is that the humour (and at times, this novel is very funny indeed) translates beautfully from the Swedish, so full marks to the translator, who has done a wonderful job. My only (tiny) reservation would be that some of the descriptive passages are a little over-long, but I have no hesitation in recommending the book. I don't think anyone can fail to enjoy it.
384 of 411 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2012
I was completely blown away by this book. It brought to mind the early Tom Sharpe novels; irresistibly my mind kept floating away to a landscape peopled by eccentric old men, inefficient criminals, Peter Sellers in Pink Panther, all the caricatures of television farce.
I won't detail the plot, you can see that from the other reviews, and by reading the blurb, that it concerns an eccentric pensioner with attitude, with a life story to match, who holds one's attention all through the book. He needs his vodka and can't stand the thought of his Centenary party at the old people's home in which he has ended up where the Matron has been attempting to institutionalise him and take all the joy of choice from his life so, on a sudden whim, he hops out of the window and legs it to the bus station. The other sudden whim, nearly his undoing, was to then hop on the bus with someone else's suitcase, entrusted to him by the owner, who had popped into the loo. So the tale begins.
It is peopled by real political leaders acting in fairly unbelievable ways (at least, I hope they are !) and yet there is a warning message running through this book on several levels, the least of them being a warning not to take anyone too seriously. Especially leaders of countries, matrons of retirement homes, in fact, anyone in authority, whether voted in or not.
Some people won't like the way it goes from past to present, but when someone is one hundred years old, I am not sure there would be enough `present' to build the story on. And it is the past which is so interesting, from a world political point of view, to someone like me who hates anything historical and especially about war. I have assimilated things that I have steadfastly refused to dwell on, and the comical presentation almost makes it more believable than the truth.
Do read this book if you want something to hold your attention, take you back to your father's youth and most of all, if you want something to make you laugh.
Twitter link @GensPlace
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2013
A friend on my wavelength told me to get this book and I did so without reading a thing about it (which is unusual for me), but on this occasion it turned out to be very rewarding, I thoroughly enjoyed this book ! But be warned, it isn't for everyone, the author has a dry and often dark sense of humour and the key story flits off into Alan's long life story on a regular basis. I found this interesting, Alan is linked to many key moments in history and while a certain artistic licence is used, the author manages to tie a lot of historic events together quite nicely.
But this does take up large, key sections of the book and it breaks the pace of the story, so I can see that some readers would find it distracting and even dull. But if you have the patience, an odd sense of humour and a little bit of interest in the past 100 years or so of history, it is a very rewarding experience.
The odd events that befall Alan on his travels are the more interesting sections of the book and will be the most rewarding for most readers, certainly I found them the most humorous, but I was pleasantly surprised by the chapters that jump back into Alan's bizarre past.
I would recommend this book to a lot of my friends, but not to all of them, the same would apply to the good folk of Amazon - don't try it if your easily distracted but if your a more . . . tolerant (yes, that's the word) reader then I think your in for a rewarding experience !
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2012
This book has been a very long time in coming. Much like Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy they seemed to be available in all other languages before being available in English. And ultimately well worth waiting for. It also sold more than a million copies in Sweden (a country with fewer than 10 million inhabitants).
There the similarity ends, there is nothing essentially Swedish or "Nordic" about this book. It is farce, but highly entertaining farce, based on the fundemental idea of a "hero" stumbling his way in Forrest Gump fashion through the 20th century meeting many of it's most influencial politicians and accidentally influencing history along the way.
Also like Forrest Gump it fluctuates between the present (2005) and various flashbacks - the chronological life story of Allan Karlsson.
The style is a quirky one. I myself would compare it to the Danish author Finn Søeborg. By that I mean that it makes very little use of direct speech in quotation marks but rather uses the 3rd person: Didn't Allan think that....? Yes, Allan though that was probably the case.
I first "enjoyed" this book as an audiobook in the original Swedish, subsequently as an audiobook in Danish and finally read it on holiday shortly after its July publication in English. I was very interested to compare the different versions and I have to say I thought the English translation was excellent. In particular it avoids the temptation of translating the (very few) utterly Swedish and essentially untranslatable phrases badly. The "appendix" to the Bible is a good example of this.
I thoroughly recommend this book - but make sure you have the time to read it quickly rather than a few pages at a time.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 31 July 2013
I thought that the book started off extremely well as the tale of the 100 year old man got underway. However, I didn't realise that it would develop into a Forrest Gumpesque style of increasingly complicated and frankly boring sagas. I liked the characters in the plot which involved the 100 year old man escaping and the series of "mishaps" but the rest was boring.
187 of 210 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2012
Whatever you're doing, stop it and read this book.
Without giving too much away, Allan decides to do a bunk from his nursing home on his hundredth birthday, accidentally stealing a gangster's suitcase containing fifty million crowns. He is thereafter sought out as a missing person, fugitive and target by the police and moneyless gang.
What unfolds is nothing short of the most fun, ridiculous and bizarre romp Sweden has ever seen.
Running parallel to the present day (2005) account is a retrospective on our hero's life, from 1905 to present. His adventures take him all over the world, hopping from the frying pan of one major world event and into the fire of the next. A plethora of world leaders feature, along with some other significant historical figures, which Allan happens upon in the most random way.
Because all of Allan's adventures are entirely accidental, and because he rarely recognises the significance of what he is doing, it's just mental enough to be more or less, almost credible. The absolute unlikeliness of one scatter brained, apolitical chap ambling across the globe, causing everything of relevance over the last one hundred years simply adds to the book's unique charm. Allan meets Stalin was a particular favourite episode of mine.
The modern-day (fictitious) characters are also a colourful bunch and compliment Allan in various, fitting ways. We are treated to a short backstory for each of them too, and their pasts contribute to their current function. Writers immediately command more respect when they acknowledge their characters had lives before the plot, and are not just the sum of events since page 1. Although there is rather a clump of histories presented to us early on, they're well worth reading.
Jonasson's writing style is simply fantastic. Plot and characters aside, the book is entertaining purely for the writer's narration. His writing style is warm and funny, and makes it so easy and enjoyable to just glide through the book.
While it seems impossible to conclude the drama in a sensible yet satisfactory way, Jonasson so easily pulls one thread to make the tapestry of events clear. The dénouement is perfect in every way - one you want, one that's not cheating, very clever and incredibly hilarious.
Funny but intelligent, witty but well-researched. Overall, a nigh on faultless chronicle of one man's adventure, pre- and post- his 100th birthday. The biggest downside is simply how much you miss the charming chappy after the curtain comes down on the ride of your, and his, life.
96 of 108 people found the following review helpful
There is a lot of hype about this book and the reviews on here are totally enthusiastic which kind of convinced me to give it a go. I certainly enjoyed parts of the book - more particularly the earlier sections. There are some amusing and clever twists to the tale - but they become increasingly far-fetched and somewhat repetitive. It reminded me somewhat of William Boyd's (much better in my opinion) 'Any Human Heart' which explored the life of one man viewed against the backdrop of the 20th century but in a much more satisfying and believable way. In Boyd's book I experienced genuine emotion and could identify with the ups and downs of his main character, Logan Mountstuart. By the end of this book, I'd lost any real interest in what was going to happen to the characters, because basically nothing bad ever does. They lead charmed lives - getting away, literally, with murder. So the story works at the level of farcical escapism, but because it's so long it becomes a bit tedious in the end. I guess the one question it leaves you pondering is "Is there a window that I need to climb out of?" - but because the adventures of Allan and his crew are so improbable, the narrative doesn't really help you to answer that question. If it's farce you're after, I'd recommend Michael Frayn's 'Skios' which, to my mind, works much better than this.
So overall, not bad for long journeys, but ultimately empty and unsatisfying.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2013
The one hundred year old man may have climbed out of the window but he most certainly didn't disappear! This is an amusing, rather than laugh out loud funny, novel. It does however suffer from being overly clever and the author is far too determined to cram in every piece of 20th century history that I suspect he ever learnt into this book. The joke wears quite thin after 150 pages and by the 300th page I was rather bored by it. This would have made a very entertaining novella, but at over 300 pages long it cries out for a good editor.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2013
As a reader of almost anything containing English words I have been known to read cornflake boxes, chocolate muffin wrappers and milk cartons where there is nothing else to hand. This was the position I found myself in just before I stumbled across this book.
Almost desperate for something new and different to read I downloaded this story about the hundred year old man and it is different! The use of language and the surprising twists the author makes mid sentence are intriguing and kept me interested from page one right the way through to the last page.
The plot is ridiculous but no more so than many books that are aiming to be serious fiction. The characters equally are ridiculous but engaging and I loved the way plot lines converged in the most unexpected places.
Many reviewers have said the book is hilarious but I don't see it, it made me chuckle occasionally and once or twice I laughed, I suppose that is the beauty of humour that everyone's is different.
Good book though!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2013
The first few chapters of the book are great. I was really keen to keep going and find out for myself exactly why the book was an 'international bestseller'. Then it dawned on me that I was reading chapter after chapter of Russian history and politics and war - things that I wasn't expecting to get with this book. Rather, I bought this book as I thought it would be a nice light-hearted read. Some of the political chapters are much too long - some alone take up a large chunk of the book. Out of principle (I hate leaving a book unfinished) I got myself through it, and was very disappointed with the ending!!
The book has lots of wit and humour which made me chuckle in places, and generally is well written. It's just not what I expected in a book that I thought would be quite a light-hearted and interesting read. It may be a good read for people who love reading about history and politics though!