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on 20 September 2016
Hilarious, strange and over the top, 'The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared' is superb. The book follows the riveting adventures of the 100 Year Old Man (Alan), Including a resourceful Hot Dog Vendor, a petty thief, a gang and an elephant. What makes this story so engaging is the bizarre, funny and down right ridiculous plot, from dead bodies to 80 million swedish crowns. This book also follows Alan's life prior to escaping from the Old Folks Home, describing his coincidental importance in the 20th century, from saving General Franco's life to escaping a Vladivostok camp with Einsteins unintelligent half brother after insulting Josef Stalin. This book is really about adventure, how one is never too old to have one and the Value of life. It is well translated and is fluent and exciting in terms of writing style. This book is a must read!
6 people found this helpful
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on 3 January 2018
I finished this book at the second attempt but don't regret picking it up again. I must have been in a different mood when I started it the first time and gave up, for on my second read I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Allan Karlsson.

The historic events narrated with Alan at the centre are so ludicrous that you sometimes pause and wonder what is true and what isn't. Some might find the story too reminiscent of Forrest Gump but at the same time would wish for Allan to have run across Forrest at some point in the greatest encounter ever imagined.

So, if you enjoyed watching Forrest Gump, there is no doubt that you will enjoy reading about Allan's adventures.

My only criticism about the story is how the bad guy conveniently softens up, but at that point in my reading, I had come to expect that anything could happen.

Wonderful read.
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on 6 November 2016
It's Allan Karlsson's 100th birthday. His care home is putting on a party but Allan isn't really in a party mood so he takes his nearest escape route; the window. This book isn't just about a grumpy old man who runs away from his care home. He gets the into all sorts of trouble after escaping but the real story for me was everything leading up to the escape. It's a lifetime of experience, of wars, travel and many friends along the way.

Jonas Jonasson has a wonderful way of writing. He takes you on a quirky and hilarious journey through various countries during the major events of the 20th century. Allan doesn't intend to be at the centre of it all, but somehow he stumbles across world leaders and major historical figures on his journey around the world. This isn't a book to take too seriously, but a lovely introduction to a completely unbelievable one hundred year old man and the events he has experienced.
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I am a bit late coming to this book as it seemed to have been recommended to me by everyone I know but I am glad that I made the effort. It was not quite what I expected - although I am not sure what I actually did expect.

The story is about an old man who climbs out of the window of his care home and escapes via train. He becomes involved with criminals and other people whilst the book also looks back at his very eventful life where he seems to have been at the heart of some major world events and to have known some influential people. The message of the book is that no one is too old to really live and that the older people we see may have had more exciting lives than we can imagine. When you are reading the book you really don't have any idea what is going to happen next and the author moves the story quickly from one situation to another many of which are very funny. The book is written in a light-hearted, matter of fact manner which is a real contrast to the content and helps to make it quirky and unusual.

I did have just a slight concern that the style of the book meant that death and injury to characters was rather ignored or at least little time was given to the impact of it. The same rather applied to the many criminal acts which take place. You need not to let this bother you and read the book as a sort of modern fairytale and then you need to heed the message and regard older people in a different way in future.
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on 18 June 2018
In this dry and charming caper, the Forrest Gump formula gets a more ambitious and less US-centric remix, taking in a grander sweep of global history and with a protagonist who, while just as good-natured, is slightly less blank a canvas than poor Forrest. It's a fun and easy-going read: despite encountering despots, dictators and torture bosses aplenty in his random walk through the crises of the twentieth century, our hero Allan, an accidental explosives expert, ultimately falls in with people who share his basic phlegmatic Scandinavian reasonableness. The intricately crafted and joyfully absurd plot is so over the top that at one point I had pangs of anxiety that we might face a Life of Pi-style ending, where an alternate take on Allan's riproaring yarn might loom into view courtesy of an Alzheimer's diagnosis. I also panicked a bit when matters of mortality were trailed in the final chapters. But, without wanting to spoil it for anyone, suffice it to say that this is not a book that's out to ruin your day.
I didn't feel I quite got the bits about Indonesia. Maybe Indonesia plays a different and more humorous role in the Swedish imaginary than in mine. Other than that, jolly good fun.
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on 8 January 2016
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is the 2009 bestselling debut novel from Swedish writer, Jonas Jonasson.

I must first admit that it took me 2 years (!!!) to finish The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I know this is an excessive amount of time and most people would have given up. However, I had read the great reviews and was worried that by giving up, I may miss out on a masterpiece! All-in-all, I am glad to say that my determination won out and, after working my way through the first half, the book then started to draw me in until I was actually enjoying reading it and struggled to put it down.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is the bizarre and imaginative tale of centenarian explosives expert and vodka-lover, Allan Karlsson, who climbs out of his bedroom window at the old people’s home on his 100th birthday and sets off with no set destination in mind. A chance meeting at the bus station leads to Karlsson stealing a suitcase full of money and embarking on an adventure (or rather a misadventure) with a crazy bunch of newly acquired friends, Julius Jonsson, Benny Ljungberg and Gunilla Bjorklund, whilst they flee from motorcycle gangsters, ineffectual criminals and the police, all the while accompanied by a pet circus elephant, Sonya.

The friends unintentionally leave a trail of destruction behind them

After struggling greatly with the first half, the story then picks up pace and becomes a fantastic satire on the imperfections of international relations over the past century.

The chapters flip between Karlsson’s current predicament and the incredible tale of his earlier life, recounting the critical role he has unwittingly played in some of the greatest historical events of the 20th century, including inventing the atom bomb, the Spanish Civil War, meetings with President Truman, Nixon, Stalin, Franco, General Mao Tse Tung, journeys on camels and submarines and a friendship with Herbert Einstein, the hapless fictional half-brother of Albert Einstein.

This adventure would usually be too much for someone of such an advanced age, however for Karlsson it is merely another chapter in a very unique life. The story of Karlsson’s fantastical life is told in a very straight forward tone, underlining the complete indifference Karlsson demonstrates in relation to much beyond his own immediate thoughts, and that his involvement in those historical events was merely a means to an end for the stoic centenarian.

I have seen people describe the book as having a ‘Forrest Gump’ feel to it and I understand that sentiment as the quirky and eccentric hero stumbles through life unwittingly changing the world on his way!

Karlsson is not a hugely endearing character, however he is very interesting to read about. The same applies to the supporting characters, whilst maybe not people I want to befriend, they do make for a good story. The gangsters and criminals, including Per-Gunnar Gerdin, and the burnt-out and lonely policeman, Chief Inspector Aronsson, make great foils for the hapless heroes.

The writing style is interesting. There is a lot of reported speech, rather than first hand speech, making me feel as though I was watching Karlsson’s life through a window, rather than being sat next to him. This can put distance between the reader and the characters, however, I thought that worked well in this instance, given the nature of the story and the fact that the book was looking back over sections of Karlsson’s life, almost like watching old home movies.

The book demonstrates a great degree of charm and humour. Jonasson has spun a very clever tale and a fantastic re-telling of world history. It is absurd and silly, yet a joy to read. A true example of growing old disgracefully! I honestly cannot remember reading another book that has turned my opinion so thoroughly within the space of a few chapters. I can see that this book may not be for everyone, however I stuck with it and ultimately found it to be a rewarding read.

I think this is a ‘marmite’ book, one which can completely divide opinion between readers. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the book and why you did/did not enjoy it!
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on 19 October 2016
This book is totally and utterly ridiculous in the most charmingly funny way! I found myself laughing out loud regularly while reading it (something I rarely do when reading) and having to actually put it down for a second to let what I'd just read sink in or simply laughing to myself with head in hands saying 'it's just so ridiculous!' for the hundredth time.
Whether you care about politics or not, whether you know anything about history or not, the tales of this man's life are hilarious and the journey he now takes after jumping out of the window is full of unbelievable occurrences. You will find yourself saying 'what is going on?' many times, but always laughing as you do!
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on 14 August 2013
I'm undecisive about this book. First I really thought I was going to enjoy it but around the middle it started to tire me and I had to put it aside for a few months before I could continue. I have to admit the story is interesting. I would even like the outrageous series of events that sweep the guy right in the middle of several major historical situations. The story that happens in the present time with the suitcase, the unlikely, adventurous friendships and the elephant would still be all right, I actually think it would make a very good movie.
But after a while the humour start bordering on the burleque and that annoys me. This very clever and resourceful man sometimes gets positively stupid too. Having been so clever at talking to world leaders in ways to please them every time, no matter their politics, why all of a sudden piss off Stalin in a way to guarantee deportation to the gulag? And to top it off suggest that Stalin shave off his moustache?! That's not funny, that's just plain idiotic.
There were several other "humorous" bits that I found very unfunny. The few passeges of ridiculously simplistic blurb with which he dismissed the Korean situation is clearly intended to be funny, but peronally, I felt it was very unintelligent and even insulting.
I'm struggling because I want to finish for the interesting story but about 60% into the book I'm getting very tired of the stupid humour.
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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!
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on 17 August 2014
I have every sympathy with anyone facing a 'celebration' they do not wish to celebrate, and who climbs out of the (ground floor) bedroom window to escape from it. Like Water For Elephants, the protagonist is an elderly man in an old people's home where he does not wish to be. His spirit is unbowed, even if his legs aren't as steady as they used to be. Unlike Water for Elephants, Allan Karlsson is not going to run away to a circus - instead he simply wants to go as far away as possible on a 50-krone note. Thus starts a bizarre sequence of events that, once you skip back through his life (which you do, in suitably digestible chunks), becomes totally in keeping with his extraordinary twists of fortune.

Since Allan is 100 years old, the chunks tracing his life start right back in the 1900s. It's a life lesson for any teens agonising over their careers after their exams - you can have a successful and interesting career so long as you take the opportunities that come your way. Admittedly, the opportunities that Allan takes are somewhat crazier than most of us would face, but then we were not born in Sweden with a father who had the misfortune to fall out with the Bolsheviks just as the Communists took power in Russia. It's enough to make anyone avoid politics forever, which is exactly what Allan does. Nevertheless he gets embroiled in one dangerous political situation after another - well, there was a lot going on between 1920 and 1990 in Europe and America... and Russia, Siberia, Korea, China, Japan and Iran, too. Allan manages to get into all the political and revolutionary hotspots I can recall. His adventures managed to sort out a lot of what I, not being a student of political history, failed to understand from the news bulletins when I was younger!

Oh, did I mention the crimes that make the police pursue him all over South Sweden after he does his disappearing act?

The writing is dryly humorous (very Swedish!), full of fun, yet absurd at the same time, with wonderfully rounded and somewhat inept characters. It's rather like a Swedish Hitchhiker's Guide to the 20th Century - complete with Don't Panic written helpfully on the back.

I absolutely loved it - with a slight sadness that I thought it dropped off at the end. But I still give it five stars - since I'd have given it six if I could.

It's a bizarre, somewhat Nordic noir romp that I thoroughly recommend to adults who like something clean and off the wall with a smattering of wacky history thrown in.
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