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The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared Paperback – September 11, 2012
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Desperate to avoid his 100th birthday party, Allan Karlsson climbs out the window of his room at the nursing home and heads to the nearest bus station, intending to travel as far as his pocket money will take him. But a spur-of-the-moment decision to steal a suitcase from a fellow passenger sends Allan on a strange and unforeseen journey involving, among other things, some nasty criminals, a very large pile of cash, and an elephant named Sonya. It’s just another chapter in a life full of adventures for Allan, who has become entangled in the major events of the twentieth century, including the Spanish Civil War and the Manhattan Project. As Allan’s colorful and complex history merges with his present-day escapades, readers will be treated to a new and charmingly funny version of world history and get to know a very youthful old man whose global influence knows no age limit. An international best-seller, this is an engaging tale of one man’s life lived to the fullest. --Carol Gladstein
"[A] witty caper. ***1/2"―People
"[A] silly and wonderful novel. [The scenes] will just keep readers amused almost non-stop, and that's a feat few writers achieve. A great cure for the blues, especially for anyone who might feel bad about growing older."―Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"The anti Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. . . Jonasson's lighthearted novel shows the softer side of Sweden. . . . hilarious."―Marie Claire
"Scandi-crime's signature darkness is here dispelled by Allan Karlsson, the eponymous centenarian, who with unlikely sprightliness hops out of the window of his old people's home one afternoon . . . Fast-moving and relentlessly sunny . . . Like Allan, the plot is pleasingly nimble and the book's endearing charm offers a happy alternative to the more familiar Nordic noir."―The Guardian
"[A] laugh-out-loud debut . . . Historical figures like Mao's third wife, Vice President Truman, and Stalin appear, to great comic effect. Other characters-most notably Albert Einstein's hapless half-brother-are cleverly spun into the raucous yarn, and all help drive this gentle lampoon of procedurals and thrillers."―Publishers Weekly, Starred
"A mordantly funny and loopily freewheeling debut novel about ageing disgracefully."―The Sunday Times
"Eccentric, unusual and far-fetched in the best possible way."―The Bookseller
"This quirky novel is a sly, satirical look back at international relations in the 20th century through the eyes of an old man who has seen it all."―Library Journal
"Imaginative, laugh-out-loud . . . a brilliant satire on the foibles of mankind."―The Telegraph
Top customer reviews
This is a wonderful, crazy, fun-filled book.
It literally had me thinking what the author wrote in the dedication part - "Grandpa, is that story real?" This book is the epitome of silliness mixed with some real-life history of the Russians, the Chinese, and American governments. I can't say enough about this book and how it should be read by everyone!
Allan Karlson decides to climb out of the window of his nursing home in Sweden because he can’t bear the thought of the 100th birthday party that’s been planned for him. He gets on a bus where the driver puts what he thinks is Allan’s black suitcase on with him. So begins a far-fetched, rollicking story of his adventures over the next month. Fired by a personality that ‘says yes to life’ he meets an assorted bunch of misfits, including a pet elephant, who manage to outwit the police, a murderous bunch of drug dealers and a supercilious prosecutor. Interwoven through the tale is Allan’s life story, which spans the entire twentieth century and some of its biggest characters and events. Allan meets Franco in Spain, gets involved in the Manhattan project and pays a visit to Kim Jong-Il North Korea.
Everything that happens to Allan Karlson is written in such a way as to be almost believable so that you never get annoyed with the tall tales Jonasson is telling and its wickedly funny. The humour comes from the deadpan delivery of how the characters react to their increasingly ridiculous predicaments. The murderous drug dealers are called The Violence but the girlfriend enlisted to embroider the name on the back of the gang’s stolen jackets isn’t much of a speller and sews The Violins on the jacket instead. The section on Einstein I thought was absolutely hilarious. Allan’s homespun philosophy on life reads like Doris Day – ‘Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be. That meant among other things, that you didn’t make a fuss, especially when there was good reason to do so…’
Most of the action and dialogue is told as narrative so it really feels as if you are listening to your grandfather tell you a story. As Jonasson notes in his dedication, “‘Those who only says what is the truth, they’re not worth listening to,’ Grandpa replied.” The plot is also very loose and I thought there was no clear climax, as if the story had run out of steam and all that was left to do was tidy up the group’s future.
But this really is a very funny book with a great pace and a gentle tilt at the absurdity of some of the leaders who have shaped the 20th century.