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.
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
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.
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.
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 !
on 11 September 2012
This is the most entertaining book I've read for years. I found myself grinning every couple of pages. I loved the absurdity of the main character meeting all these historical world leaders and his wonderful attitude to them. The way the author uses indirect speech makes it hilarious. It's a feel-good book, great fun and by the end all I'm wishing is I have as many adventures when I hit 100 years of age!
If you thought that Sweden only produced dour and depressing crime books, then think again. Jonas Jonasson has here produced a comic gem that has been gaining popularity by word of mouth alone.
Meet Allan Karlson, it is the 2nd May 2005, and he is just about to have a hundredth birthday party arranged by the old people's home, where he resides. This isn't what Allan wants though, so climbing out of his window he does a bunk. After stealing a suitcase on wheels he starts a manhunt for him, with both the police and criminals after him. As he progresses on his road trip he meets and makes friends with a host of unusual characters.
If that wasn't funny enough and ripe for comedy we also have another story as such, as we are also shown Allan's life. Allan has always tried to avoid politics, but throughout the 20th Century, there he is, with some of the big players of the time.
This book is never boring, it will have you laughing away at its comic incidents and characters. Allan just looks for the basics in life, a roof over his head, food and a drink. Ultimately he becomes someone whom you can't help liking as you find out more about him, and the same goes for other characters in this book. Although there are deaths here ultimately this book is life affirming, and remember, you are never too old to have some adventure and fun.
This paperback edition also contains a short interview with the author, as well as a reading group guide. Indeed this would make great book for a group to read.
Allan Karlsson is in a care home. There are going to be big celebrations for his 100th Birthday which he wishes to avoid.The Mayor - everyone has been invited. It is a big civic celebration of Allans's century. Allan sees an opportunity climbs out of the window and only realises as he escapes that he still has his slippers on. He finds his way to the local bus station aware that soon his absence will be discovered. Our Hero is old can't run or climb and when he finds the bus station that he has little money so he gets a ticket for the first bus that will take him the furthest from town.... A very lanky young male wearing a T shirt with ' Never Again' written across it and carrying a suitcase comes on to the station and rudely demands that Allan look after his case as he can't gain access to the toilet with his heavy suitcase. Before Allan can reply the man leaves and the bus arrives. The bus driver asks if he wants help with the case onto the bus and Allan says 'yes' as it occurs to him there might be a pair of shoes in the case. The adventures start and continue from there. This is the funniest book I have read. It is so entertaining, so clever, so well written that you don't want to get to the end.
on 21 October 2012
Totally unbelievable..Completely ridiculous....Absolutely BRILLIANT!!! Most enjoyable book that I have read in ages. A bit repetitive maybe but so what, I think that's part of the fun of it. Start with an open mind, accept its tongue in cheek and ENJOY.
on 29 September 2012
When I read an excerpt of this book on here a couple of months ago, just ONE review had been written. What a shock I had on logging on now to write a review and finding the review count had leapt to 94!
Centenarian Allan Karlsson's tale began with great promise, but then grew tiresome in its complacency and repetition. The story is what it is -- light entertainment. It's a fun read with some truly imaginative moments, but ultimately suffers from endless replication and an excess of flat humour. Which is a shame. A considerable abridgement of this book could have made it a winner.