Herbert obeyed, and then it was okay, just as most things were okay, apart from the lack of vodka. Allan put up with it for exactly five years and three weeks. Then he said: ‘Now I want a drink. And I can’t get that here. So it’s time to move on.'”
(from the back cover…) Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn’t want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not… Escaping (in his slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan’s earlier life is revealed. A life in which – remarkably – he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century.
There are two stories here – one of 100-year-old Allan escaping from his retirement home, accidentally stealing 50 million krone, and his subsequent journey around Sweden with some unlikely accomplices, and the stories of Allan’s earlier life in which his expertise with explosives got him into tangles in Franco’s Spain, the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, the Korean War, Iran and Stalin’s Russia. I found the latter much more interesting than the former and would happily have only had that half of the story! His “present-day” adventures tended more to the ridiculous. This is as plot-dependent as the trashy thrillers which line my hand-luggage on any long-haul flight – but less tense and dramatic somehow. It’s perfectly put-down-able, because a long read leads to a farce overdose and the story is very easy to remember on recommencing.
The other characters, particularly Julius and Herbert Einstein, fulfil their obligations as comic foils well, but Allan is the star of the show. Sceptical of priests, politicians and anyone who drinks fruit juice, he is both Everyman and delightfully wacky. He has a slightly unrealistic knack of making everyone more likely to negotiate with him than shoot him (Kim Jong-Il being high on that list), but that’s necessary to keep the book going so we’ll set aside expectations of reality. The incompetent bad guys from “The Violins” gang and the press-hungry Chief Prosecutor Ranelid complete the cast of absurdity.
Worth a read if only for the light-hearted tour of the 20th century world events. Or Sonya the elephant.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONAdditional information: Copy from a friend who was moving house and wanted to purge books before packing. Wise woman. Publisher: Hesperus Press, 387 paperback pages Order The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappearedfrom Amazon* * this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting