If you liked Forrest Gump (the movie, not the book), chances are you’ll love The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared (the book – movie’s expected later this year). This book, recommended by someone in my writer’s group, was an unexpected surprise that I can see myself reading several more times before I celebrate my centenary.
The story is simple: Alan Karlsson, on his hundredth birthday, decides he’s fed up with the old age home, climbs through his bedroom window in his slippers and gets on a bus, picking up some luggage along the way. He joins forces with a professional thief and a hot-dog seller/almost vet/almost doctor/almost architect/almost…well, rather you just read the book…and finds himself on the run, wanted by the police for a triple murder. There’s something about an Elephant and a bunch of Bibles in there as well, but let me not give too much away right now.
In between we are treated with snippets from Alan’s life and learn that several historic events did not play out exactly the way you were taught in high school History class. Think you know who invented the atomic bomb? Think again. What about how the fall of the USSR came about? Plodding his way through history, quite oblivious of what’s going on around him, Mr Karlsson has a hand in several historic events of the past century, including the Spanish and Chinese civil wars, the Korean War, the Cold War and (quite indirectly) the Watergate scandal, aided and abetted by Albert Einstein’s bastard idiot half-brother, Herbert. Just like Forrest Gump he gets to meet the President of the United States of America (several times), but also such infamous figures in history as General Franco, Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao. However, unlike the aforementioned Gump he does not solve things by running, but by blowing stuff up (he’s not crazy; he’s just very good at it).
This first novel by Swede, Jonas Jonasson, is a delightful read that will have you rolling on the floor at times and at others putting it down with an incredulous shake of the head. Jonasson stretches the story far beyond the frontiers of believability, but does it so well you won’t mind. Originally written in Swedish, the English translation reads so easily you won’t even know that it has been translated unless you try to say all the Swedish names out loud.
This story will have you thinking about your own life, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it; there are few things as inspiring as a hundred-year-old man making a major life decision. That said, it’s not at all heavy reading and I can definitely recommend it to anyone who needs a touch of light-heartedness in their lives.
How does it end, I hear you ask. Now you don’t seriously want me to tell you that, do you? Suffice it to say, they all lived happily ever after. Amen.